Upstream Color
By Victoria Gray With on February 10, 2013

Shane Carruth, winner of the 2004 Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Primer comes back on the scene 9 years later with Upstream Color. His DIY style of filmmaking is overwhelmingly present as the credits roll. Carruth, writes, directs, scores, costars, co-edits and shoots the beautiful and haunting photography of Upstream Color. This film has received a great deal of buzz, with both viewers and critics dividing between brilliance and utter confusion. A few seconds after the closing of the film that I screened, a man leaned over the seat with a bewildered look on his face and exclaimed in a whisper, “what the fuck was that?” What indeed was this memorizing, confounding, brooding, abstract and ethereal film? I had only a vague idea, a hazy color of emotion, but the Q & A offered a great deal of insight into this question. Curruth described Upstream Color as “mythic in character.” When asked “what drove him to make this film” Curruth responded that he set out to explore “the way that people build their own sort of identity and personal narratives.” The character’s perception of identity he went on to say, “ is based on the bits that they find around themselves.” While thinking about the way that each human constructs who they are, Curruth explained, “I wanted to make a story where I took people and crippled them, and destroyed them on some level, and left them in a state where they don’t quite know how they got there and so they have to explain it in some way based on what they find around themselves and that ends up dictating the way that they think of themselves and the way that they pursue their lives from that point forward.” In Upstream Color we watch as Kriss, (Amy Seimetz) is brutally violated, her entire personal narrative is deconstructed while she is thrown back into society with no sense of framework, no real construct of who she is. Fear, mistrust, desperation, and disorientation become the touchstones of her disassociated life. She is eventually both repelled and drawn to Jeff (Shane Carruth) a man who has also unknowingly faced the violation, disorientation and pure chaos of this severed narrative. Through their relationship Curruth invites us to experience a shattered self construction that finds an unlikely way to connection. Upstream Color makes us question our stories, our memories and our broken self understanding. Relationships have the ability to help us reconstruct, to reorient, and to truly see. Upstream Color cuts away so that it can heal. It reminds us that against all odds, love builds up, love sacrifices, love frees, and in the middle of a bathtub where desperation and fear loom like a dark cloud, love can still win.

About the Author: Victoria Gray
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