The most important question in high-quality science fiction is not a “What if?”, and “then What?”
It is not surprising that attention to the “Opening” Charlie McDowell at the Sundance film festival primarily drew its main idea is: what if we knew that the afterlife exists?
As thoughts of death are changing our world
How to become immortal and do we want this
What happens to the human body after death
Do hair and fingernails grow after death?
However, the approach of the Director to implement this idea and how, in his opinion, it will be able — or not able — to change the world, are questioning the success of “Open” in the viewer.
“The opening”, the script for which he wrote jointly with Justin Lader (and his debut film “Beloved”), begins with a shocking, but original entry.
Thomas harbour (Robert Redford), a scientist that proved the existence of some form of life after death, tells of his discovery of the leading TV programs (sorry, that Mary Steenburgen got such a small role).
The interview is suddenly interrupted by one of the TV crew, having heard that the scientist said, blow his brains out.
Unlike the two period films, “Sundance”, dedicated to suicide Florida anchor Christine Chubbuck committed live, the act of television in the “Discovery” is not a protest, but rather a suggestion: if another world exists, he can’t be worse than this, so why not get there as soon as possible?
Some time later Thomas Harbor goes underground, the number of suicides has been steadily increasing, millions of people around the world kill themselves to find out what happens next.
His son will (Jason Segel), a neuroscientist, goes to her father to give Tom what he thinks about what is happening, but on the way to the island, where Thomas meets Isla (Rooney Mara).
This dyed morose blonde gets both his antagonist and accomplice, provoking him and helping him in his search for truth, or at least their own truth.
The question of the existence of the afterlife is both epistemological, cognitive, and metaphysical, beyond the experience, character, though not all, but a large part of the faithful have long had all the necessary evidence for yourself.
It would seem that the opening of the Harbor is quite convincing in order to eliminate all the problems. But, as stated by his son, “the evidence must be indisputable, it must be final” (from that, would you, this statement is profound, or conversely, superficial, will depend largely on your impression of the film).
In the “Discovery”, the group dressed in overalls supporters with glazed eyes that Thomas harbour surrounded himself, more like a cell nascent cult than a collection of outstanding minds to abandon primitive superstition in favor of fact.
One of the most successful moves of McDowell in the “Discovery” is the choice of Robert Redford for the role of Harbor.
Redford acts as a homegrown technological prophet, whose indifference to the consequences of the publication of the results of own research grows out his monstrous idealism.
His son will believes that his father secretly laughing at the theatrics of his pseudoself, but sees it as a necessary evil, as a way to keep his followers under control — and may help them to survive.
But the Harbor knows that the rules of the game, he becomes the actual leader of this cult, not a neutral disseminator of objective truths.
It seems odd that a film in which so much attention is paid to the question of life after death, contains almost no references to the millennial history of religious and philosophical works on this topic.
The impression that the Harbor and his followers cut himself off not only from the world but from its history began with a clean slate and built from scratch a completely new system of beliefs.
Largely “Discovery” is kind of a better version of the films of Brit Marling and Batmanglij Hall, the main drawback of which was the manner of disclosure of the plot.
But the scenes with members of the cult seem undeveloped in comparison with the film “Sound of my voice”, in which there is a certain innuendo. In the “Discovery” an obsession of the characters and its connection to their past is explained in more literally and specifically.
Riley Kio seems particularly unconvincing in the role of the restless of the followers of Thomas, and the hero, Jesse Plemons second, less conflicted son Thomas apparently was only needed in order to spice up the plot, not to develop the idea of the film.
As in the movie “Beloved”, the most worthy of discussion, the moments of “Discovery” occur in his unexpected finale, but we won’t completely spoil the fun of future viewing.
Suffice it to say that Thomas continues his research, while will and Isla lead the investigation, and the film switches from one concept of the afterlife to another.
However, it seems that the ending is rather sentimental than conceptual completion.
In his second feature film, McDowell took on many, but not all, he managed to successfully implement.
Very appropriate in this role looks of Redford, mastermind of the “Sundance”, the festival of independent cinema, whose ideology is still strong, although authority event is constantly questioned.
The term “independent cinema” is not amenable to definition, the only thing that distinguishes it is the (partial) lack of commercial compromise.
The way McDowell — from the Director’s debut of a provocative film about the relationship between two people to larger and more global “Open” — raises the question of what in the modern context is generally understood under the same genre of movie as an indie.
This is especially true in light of the fact that the majority of viewers will see this picture on Netflix, who acquired it before the start of the festival, although shown in cinemas, though small, is still planned.
Viewing on a small screen is unlikely to benefit the movie, filmed in concrete, cool style reminiscent of Kubrick and “the runway” of Chris Marker.
As “Arrival” Denis Villeneuve, “Discovery” is a film dedicated to the idea. Let his budget is too small to create the same vivid picture, as in “Arrival”, but it very succinctly captures the large-scale effects that result from the revelation of Thomas Harbor.
Take, for example, the scene when will is sailing on the ferry to the island to the father: we see digital display, which shows a rapidly growing number of suicides next to the hashtag “#Ukrayiny”.
The authors of “Opening” was more ambitious than it seems at first glance, and let their idea is not entirely successful, it is good enough to offset some of the shortcomings of the film.