out of Five
Running time: 103
Extremely bizarre film from director Gus Van Sant – beautifully shot and occasionally amusing but also incredibly frustrating as to what it all means. Or maybe that’s the point?
Director Gus Van Sant’s career is undeniably unusual. After striking gold with two arthouse hits (Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho), he eventually went on to mainstream success and Oscar glory with Good Will Hunting. You’d have thought he’d continue in that vein, but instead he made the off-the-wall decision to do a shot for shot remake of Hitchcock’s classic Psycho.
However, the combined weirdness of all his previous films looks positively normal in the light of Gerry, a semi-improvised, experimental drama with the emphasis firmly on the ‘mental’.
Gerry And Gerry Get Lost In The Desert
Gerry stars Matt Damon and Casey ‘Brother of Ben’ Affleck as two friends, both called Gerry, who pull off the highway to go hiking on a wilderness trail in the desert. Casually deciding to stray from the path (because of all the pesky tourists), they soon lose their way in the increasingly harsh terrain. At first they don’t seem to mind and are even vaguely amused but as the hours turn into days, their situation becomes more serious, eventually leading to a shocking climax.
The script is extremely sparse, as the two characters barely even talk to each other, though when they do, they use bizarre phrases that involve their names, such as “Well, we wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t Gerry-ed up the rendezvous”. There are a few funny lines, but the effect is that you’re left wishing they would say more and, frustratingly, they don’t.
Plot-wise, that is literally all there is, though there’s a brief interlude when Affleck gets amusingly stuck on a really tall rock and Damon scrabbles around to make a ‘dirt mattress’ for him to jump onto and land safely.
Superb Camera Work And Enormously Long Takes
The film is composed of several extremely long takes, many of which
literally consist of the two actors walking for minutes on end - the credits acknowledge a debt to Hungarian film-maker Bela Tarr, also known for agonisingly long takes.
It is also, however, beautifully shot by cinematographer Harris Savides and makes great use of several different locations, including the Valle de la Luna in Argentina, Death Valley, California and the hauntingly beautiful white Salt Flats of Utah, that, together, give the film a dream-like quality. One beautiful sequence in particular follows the two exhausted characters shuffling through the blank desert as the sun slowly comes up, gradually filling the screen with light.
Mystifying as it may be, Gerry is never actually boring and is wide-open for interpretation as to what it all ‘means’. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything? Maybe that’s the point? At any rate, it’s worth seeing in order to come to your own conclusions – e-mailed answers all welcomed.