A Response To Ronny Carlsson’s ‘CREATURE 2013’

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC A Response To Ronny Carlsson's 'CREATURE 2013'

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Post Credits in this experimental, expressionistic (or impressionistic…I’m never sure which of those terms to use, if any) horror film from Swedish filmmaker Ronny Carlsson, there is a nearly two minute long sequence which, to me, gets at the core of what the film is and why I find it (personally and expansively) an important bit of cinema to spend some words pouring over.  A cockroach (or some kind of beetle, I’m no entomologist) roams in a short circle on the dingy wooden floor of the shed/garage much of the film is set it—the camera, hand held, lingers above, simply there, watching the thing as it shabbily roils, as though pinned in place, rotating like clock hands; the grainy film qaulity adds to the hypnotic waiting and ache toward purpose for this image and the reality of such meaning being kept from us is what lingers in front of our eyes. A fine shot, and one (this the important thing and what most connects it to the film for me) that could not have been planned on or concocted in any traditional way—the lens finds this insect by chance (there was no roach-wrangler on set, I wouldn’t think), the filmmaker captures it, and we as audience are given the beast as a transformed object-of-circumstance to observe (for me with an odd swell of part-sympathy, part-sad revulsion, a combination of somehow waiting for a boot to come down on the insect or to have the circle prove somehow it will never break)

brwc--Creature PosterThis film reminds me of the spontaneity and simplicity, the freeform interaction of circumstances mingling with an idea developing as-it-is-filmed that makes cinema the compelling thing it is. Yes, there is something to be said for control—for technical nuance, for painstaking drafting and redrafting of scenography and technicians making a lens and focus go just so—but for me it is only when confronted with a piece of filmmaking that so eschews the importance of such things I realize what a desert of antiseptic sameness a lot of even very good cinema slips in to, these days.

Creature 2013 struck me as something at least part way invented as it was made—the filmmaker (this is just my observation, I’ve no way to confirm) approaching location, cast, etc. with a general notion of feeling to evoke and then capturing what he needed (and editing it) as much on the fly and based on emotive purpose, only, as by “following a script.”  This adds to the ease of the film feeling like a captured fever dream, a camcorder somehow set in the head of someone experiencing a mild, hardly understood-even-by-the-dreamer nightmare; this allows the feeling of randomness and things left half-expressed to seem also sewn tight, the film a garment made to fit a particular sort of incorrectly.

Before I go too far in painting this as a “random film,” though, let me point out that if not for the deftness of how Carlsson held and aimed the camera, it could have been an abominable-feeling waste of time (some will likely think it is still—the filmmaker, it strikes me, would not give half a shit, either way.)  There is a feeling of longing and love to the compositions of the shots, a real sense of allowing the images (the film is almost wholly wordless, at times it is completely soundless) to have full run of the thing, the duration of an image as much for ominous effect (the film is glimpse after glimpse of spook-story stuff, all left unresolved or half-completed in any traditional sense) as it is for complete aesthetic appreciation of the grain of the black and white on the actress’ face or the rough of the wood boards.


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The film is a lesson in the truth of the belief that if one just knows “where to put the camera” one basically has a film, no technical wizardry or hyper-specific nuance needed to produce a cinema that evokes, that carries, that haunts.  In some senses, the nightmare presented is a series of moody compositions, nothing more (there is a story, don’t get me wrong, but to me the power of the overall film is in how incidental/unnecessary that story is, how it fades to circumstantial while the residue of the shots expand in importance with retrospect) and the cinematography is not flashy but rather a showcasing of “sometimes all it takes is pointing at something quite often observed in daily life—a play of light, an obstruction bisecting an image—in order to give it power”.

brwc--Creature imageAnd there is the same simplistic deftness in the choice of camera placement and editing throughout: the cameraman stays inside a car while the actress leaves, the handheld (never zoomed) tracking of the performer not trying to hide the fact that a camera is pointed, but to use it in a quasi-documentary/offhand observer nature (this the same trick Gondry used at moments early in The Science of Sleep or Scorsese used in sequences of Taxi Driver, a cab pulling toward or away from Bickle); a windshield wiper thunks, but framed in such a way that the rather ordinary image of the road in front of a car moving along is given a creep of violence and life.

I was reminded in watching Creature 2013 that films of far more “respectable” pedigree (from Spielberg’s Duel to Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Romero’s Night of the Living Dead) found their power for being confined to the most simplistic—had more been at hand or sought, the basic, imperative explorativness of the cinematic lens would have lost meaning and become the same (often wonderful in its own right, I reiterate) standard film language that does not beg individual translation from each viewer.

The film is a kind of morbid yet gleeful hybridization of the way filmed images first felt when tooling around with a camcorder (if one did that, one knows what I mean), that special, individualized beauty impossible to translate with meaning to anyone but the kid taking the shots, and the refined, horror-stylistics of a more direct and mature auteur’s desire to turn over the brain like a stone to expose the lizards or centipedes that so often lay waiting beneath.  Like a dream, Creature 2013 will only really have meaning to the dreamer, an expression waiting to be made to ears and eyes not expected to understand it with proper gravity—but it, at least for me, made the cinematic transcendence of becoming my dream, my thing to tell, my thing to interpret and relate with no party else able to but guess at if what I think it means is what it truly does.

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<p>Pablo D’Stair is a novelist, essayist, and interviewer. Co-founder of the art house press KUBOA, he is also a filmmaker.</p>