Kansas International Film Festival – Day 1

So this is going to be a different type of post for me, one of the main reasons is that I am attending our local 11th annual Kansas International Film Festival.  This is taking place at the Glenwood Arts Theater which is 5 minutes from my house.  So yay for convenience and yay for movies.  I purchased the festival pass this year and decided to give the festival more than a casual showing like I did last year.  I have a list of films I want to see and frankly, there are far too many good films making a showing at the festival to be able to see them all.  So I am being a bit choosey which is fine.  I am hoping to give a more truncated review of some of the movie I have seen, possibly breaking out the bigger movies into more full fledged reviews but we will have to see how this goes.  I am taking a break from the 2nd day of the festival for the afternoon and will hit up the remaining two shows of the evening tonight and then send out a recap of the 2nd day of the festival.

So this post covers the opening night of the KIFF, which I had two movies on the agenda.  I had to skip the first one which was entitled Project Happiness (click here for info), mainly because a work friend of mine was having his final going away happy hour before he took his new position working in San Francisco.  So beer and friends won over seeing a movie which dealt with happiness and I would rather experience it first hand.  The second movie is one that I didn’t want to miss which was called Take Shelter.  I posted about this movie on my weekly Trailers of the Week post, and was excited to see that this was going to get an evening showing at the Glenwood.  I have heard nothing but amazing reviews and praise for a movie that seemed like a slow burn with a powerful ending.  So with my nifty lanyard in hand, I flashed the pass, walked in and grabbed a seat for Take Shelter.

Take Shelter:

We have all had that feeling when we wake up in the middle of the night.  A cold sweat, labored breathing and panic.  We chalk it up to just being a bad dream and nothing more, but there is this lingering feeling that there is something real about we just felt.  Panic, fear, uncertainty and the unyielding tone of dread that makes us questions if what we were dreaming is real or not.  It feels real to us, but hard to explain and put into words.  Take Shelter is just like that feeling, one that stabs at us in the night makes us begin to question what is real and a dream.  Omens, premonition, signs, what does it all mean?  Take Shelter looks at one man’s dreams or visions and how they begin to affect his daily life.  The dreams bleed over to his conscious state and we aren’t certain if he is going insane or having a vision about an impending doom.

A sophmore release for director Jeff Nichols has him teaming up again with Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire) as the lead of the movie, Curits LaForche, and Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life) as his wife Samantha LaForche.  Curtis has to struggle with these vivid dreams and conscious visions of storms, tornadoes and other phenomena that hail to him some kind of dangerous omen of things to come.  Curtis starts to plan for the worse, building and expanding a storm shelter for his wife and deaf daughter, stocking up on food, water, batteries and purchasing gas masks as if it was the height of the Cold War.  His visions grow increasingly violent where he stops trusting those around him, straining his relationship with his wife and losing his friends in the process.  He struggles with his grip on his mental state and questioning if what is happening to him a sign of something bigger, challenging his faith and family relationship.

The film goes into some dark territories about the strain that dreams and supposed visions have on the toll of the mind.  When the film starts out, Curtis has everything he could want in a life.  A loving wife, a daughter who is learning to cope with her hearing disability, a stable job, and a roof over his head.  Thing quickly become chaotic, visions about viscous rain, dogs attacking him, tornadoes forming in the distance and ominous storms brewing in the horizon.  He is the only one seeing these thing which leads to his paranoia.  It is a slow build, psychological build to the climax of the movie.  The strain on the family comes close to the tipping point and Curtis has jeopardized his family’s finance and also made them outcasts in the eyes of the community.

This is a visually stunning movie, which you might not get right away.  The visual composition of the storms that Curtis sees are terrifying and gorgeous with the darkness and towering clouds blanketing the scene.  It’s not only the storm and gloom that are well crafted, but also the way the film is shot.  Lighting, pan shots, and close ups all frame the Curtis in a shadow, this aura of uncertainty.  Shots inside the shelter cast him in a dark and light perspective, relaying the confusion and torn nature of his character.

The visuals also put a lot of distance as well between Curtis and the rest of the cast, who aren’t as fully developed as he is, but this is a way for us truly sympathize with Curtis and his descent into further paranoia.  Thankfully with the brooding nature of the movie, Nichols choose Michael Shannon to put the weight of the movie on.  If you are not familiar with Shannon, you will recognize a lot from other movies where he plays secondary support characters.  Mainly a “that guy” actor, he is phenomenal in this movie, have to play a guarded individual that struggles with his own sanity, while maintaining a strong front for his wife and others.  You see this swirling, emotional change that he has to endure.  He hides his fear well throughout the movie, keeping Samantha in the dark about the nature of the shelter and what his life is like.  But when it comes to a boil, Shannon displays a fury of emotions that is frightening, almost mirroring the power of storm he feels is coming.

Overall this is a fantastic psychological thriller.  It aims to tackle the division between dreams and faith.  To what end do we stop thinking our dreams are just dreams and it challenges our faith?  What we believe is real and just fiction is played out between Curtis and his wife in the shelter.  It challenges Curtis to test his faith in what he truly believes in and also what the audience’s conception of what is taking place.  The films brings up more questions than answers, with the ambiguous ending adding the audiences list of questions.  There were several things about the movie that I was not a fan of or things they brought up and dropped.  The counseling sessions, some of the pacing, and more of his past relationships with his mother and brother.  It seems like if they had an additional 20 minutes to add to the movie, this could have fleshed out more of the story and character.  It felt a little incomplete, but doesn’t detract from the enjoyment I had.

This is stunning piece of work and Michael Shannon carries the movie like the weight of visions.  We are treated to a psychological trip into Curtis’s mind and by far one of the best psychological movies to come out this year.

Rating: 4/5

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

2 Responses to Kansas International Film Festival – Day 1

  1. H.E. ELLIS says:

    THIS LOOKS AWESOME!!! I am definitely going to look for it when it comes out.

    • Nick says:

      Please Please Please go see this. One of the best sleeper movies I have seen this year. Michael Shannon isn’t necessarily a leading man, but he carries this movie like a champ. Be sure to check your local art theater as it should be getting a wider release in the coming months for Oscar season.

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