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The Independent Critic

Adam Grayson, Laura Anne Walling, Toby Jacobs, Helen Bonaparte, and Carlyle Edwards
Pablo D'Stair
65 Mins.


 "Science Fiction" Birthed in the Spirit of Dogme 95 

In 1995, Danish filmmakers Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg created the Dogme 95 Manifesto and the Vow of Chastity, both serving as a foundation of rules for filmmaking that emphasized traditional filmmaking values of story, acting and theme while excluding the use of elaborate techniques or technology. Examples of Dogme 95 films include Vinterberg's Festen, which captured the Cannes jury prize in 1998 along with Von Trier's Idioterne from that same year. American filmmaker Harmony Korine's Julien Donkey-Boy is considered another example of a Dogme 95 film. There are, of course, others but by 2005 Von Trier and Vinterberg had largely set aside the Dogme 95 movement out of a variety of concerns including simply that the films themselves were becoming formulaic.

Pablo D'Stair's latest film, Science Fiction, is an effort to create a film within the spirit of Dogme 95, though not truly within the movement's rules that included such things as:

  • Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in.
  • The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. Music, other than that naturally within the location where filming is occurring, must not be used.
  • The camera must be hand-held, though any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted.
  • The film must be in color. Special lighting is not acceptable. 
  • Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  • Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now).
  • Genre movies are not acceptable.
  • The film format must be Academy 35mm.
  • The director must not be credited.

Science Fiction centers around five unknown, unread, and well-past-their-prime science fiction authors grappling with obscurity, infinity, obsolescence and whether robots should legitimately be allowed to enter dance competitions. The film's ensemble cast includes Adam Grayson as Martin, Laura Anne Walling as Annabelle, Toby Jacobs as Tristan, Helen Bonaparte as Joey, and Carlyle Edwards as Nate. Filmed in Black-and-White, one of the first and most noticeable ways in which the film somewhat alters from Dogme 95, the film is a lo-fi, experimental and interesting film most likely to appeal to hardcore fans of indie cinema that will appreciate, if not necessarily enjoy, D'Stair's risky yet rewarding effort.

Science Fiction seems like the kind of film that is destined to get a fairly modest rating, though this isn't necessarily a sign that the film should be avoided. Experimental cinema is a must if the art of filmmaking is to survive and while I may not necessarily resonate with Science Fiction in the entirety of its 65-minute running time, it's an intelligent and thoughtful film that may very well make you curioius enough to go check out more strictly adherent Dogme 95 films.

D.P. Paul VanBrocklin's lensing is simple and straightforward, practically a must to be in the spirit of Dogme 95, while D'Stair's intentionally here and now script is perhaps one of the most vivid ways that Science Fiction captures the spirit of Dogme 95.

The recently completed film is just beginning its festival run and should find a home on the experimental and microcinema film festival circuit where moviegoers are used to seeing the less commercial side of cinema. If you get a chance, check it out.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic