There’s a new movement in film that questions the reality of the world depicted on screen. It’s not about being realistic or being in a dream, but filmmakers are starting to learn that realism does not always equal quality in modern movies. At the head of this new venture into questionable reality in film is writer Charlie Kaufman, whose movies Being John Malkovich, Human Nature, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind all take place in a surrealist dimension not conforming to all the rules of the real world.
The latest is an indie drama/thriller called Rhinoceros Eyes, coming from David Cronenberg’s nephew, first-time director Aaron Woodley. The film deals strongly with a tone of anti-realism seen most recently in Donnie Darko, and succeeds in expressing unusual ideas effectively.
Rhinoceros Eyes features Michael Pitt (The Dreamers) as a slow-witted young employee at a prop house whose simple life is upended by love-at-first-sight. He spends his days and nights rummaging through cool old movie props, and even sleeps in various places around the massive warehouse. The only reason he has to leave the prop house is to see horrible old movies at a local theater.
The life of this character is interesting enough as is, but it takes an unexpected turn when a friendly, attractive woman comes to the prop house looking for strange, specific props for a film she’s designing. This is where the bizarre title comes from, as the woman’s first request is an authentic set of rhino eyes.
The plot turns out to be unpredictable and sprawling, as Pitt’s dreams sometimes mix with reality. The story of the film is interesting, but the best parts lie in the look and feel of Rhinoceros Eyes. Woodley has a great sense of visual direction, especially for a first-time filmmaker. The prop house is one of the great all-time settings for a film, and the cluttered frames are so visually enriching that there’s always something interesting to look at.
Pitt has cornered the market on no-name indie film acting, and he does a good job as usual. He’s probably just a little too weird to break into the mainstream, but seems content to be a more versatile version of longtime cult-favorite Bruce Campbell. The supporting acting is nothing memorable, but doesn’t distract from the overall style of the film.
Rhinoceros Eyes was shown at the Cosford in October, followed by a panel discussion with professors from the film, philosophy, and psychology departments. The film will be released in South Florida on Nov. 5.
Shawn Wines can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.