I have long believed that we human beings, even at our most incredibly fucked up worst, are masterpieces in the making. Our lives are a canvas, I believe, and we spend our lives deciding what beauty will unfold and what legacy we will leave.
is to be the masterpiece and the legacy of Ray (Robin Zamora), a self-mutilating musician who is slowly killing himself to leave an album that will be, he believes, his legacy.
Written and directed by Michael LaPointe, The Symphony
is experimental cinema in every sense of the word, a relentlessly dark yet deeply felt cinematic jigsaw puzzle with shards of light, maybe hope and maybe not, sticking out like a ruptured disk amidst the film's disjointed symbolism.
As blood drips down Ray's stomach, he begins to wonder if this legacy is worth his life. Yet, he seems helpless against the drive that keeps pushing and pushing and pushing against him. His girlfriend, Sam (Marissa Merrill), seems to love him or crave him or mother him. It's hard to tell the real truth of their relationship, its presence interrupted by scenes of passion and stark intimacy, strange ramblings and knowing glares.
Then, there's the presence of Chancelor (Bill Oberst Jr.), a presence I'm hard-pressed to explain yet a presence that left me captivated by its power and wonder. To explain it would spoil the film, but suffice it to say that Chancelor seems to be a bookend to the legacy that Ray is creating.
Written, according to LaPointe, using a surrealist storytelling technique known as Exquisite Corpse, The Symphony
was constructed, quite literally, one sentence at a time with no thought as to the previously written sentences. It is this lack of cohesion that gives the film its sense of isolation, even when Ray is making love or making music or making madness. While the words and the story often feel disjointed, the simple truth is that these characters are not disconnected. Even the strangest and most outrageous note in a symphony is still part of a symphony, and even the most bizarre words and scenes and images feel, sometimes inexplicably, connected to one another.
Robin Zamora gives an astounding performance as Ray, embodying a man whose sense of purpose is simultaneously sublime and insane. On a certain fundamental level, Ray is a loser. On a grander scale, there's something almost sacred about his journey and his music and his self-mutilation. It's hauntingly holy and Zamora vividly brings to life both the insanity and wonder of it all.
Marissa Merrill is equally astounding, a perfect complement to Zamora. Merrill is responsible for the film's shards of light with a performance that exudes innocence and belief and even self-sacrifice in the name of love. In the midst of it all is the brutal lunacy and awesomeness of Bill Oberst Jr., whose character is impossible to describe and impossible to ignore. Somehow, he manages to project himself as both a symbol of spiritual enlightenment and psychotic delusion. It's a disturbing and masterful performance that you won't soon forget.
There's no question that The Symphony
won't play to the taste of your average moviegoer, it's too stark and too thought-provoking in a world where a film called Final Destination 5
could be created. Yet, The Symphony
is a remarkable achievement that should easily find a home on the indie, underground and horror fest circuit where it's challenging imagery, original story and willingness to risk it all will be wildly popular.
I have long believed that each of us, every human being, is a masterpiece undergoing a lifetime of creation. Sometimes, who knows if it's luck or insight or enlightenment, we live long enough to see the masterpiece complete. The real question, then, is "Will Ray?"
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic