Monday, March 12, 2012

"The House of Adam" (2006): "The Feature" by Jorge Ameer unsettled a lot of people (more for its ideas than directing)


I was intrigued enough by the short film version of “The House of Adam”, by Jorge Ameer (production company Hollywood Independents (site) and distributor Ariztical) on the set that I reviewed March 6, that I rented the 83-minute feature.  The feature is older than the short collection, dating back to 2006.

First, I got something wrong. The character struck by the car on the mountain road in the opening minutes is Anthony, not Adam.  The material in the short takes about 25 minutes of the feature, with a few short scenes added, before we get to “the rest of the story”.

This film has attracted widely opposing viewpoints online (in imdb comments), with some people saying they were bored, but I think they were more offended by some implications of the film.  I found myself fascinated by the concept of storytelling, as well as the character Adam (Jared Cadwell) himself.  The plot is a “string” of coincidences and tragedies that play out like a dream, but life can be like that.  It moves too quickly.  It’s better to take two full hours and develop your movie fully with all the proper foreshadowing, in which this film falls “short” (pun).

As for the “paranormal activity” toward the end, it seems like a sudden turn of genre, when it could have been prepared better (in the writing). Is Adam really some kind of angel who can live forever?  He fights off abuse and wrongful accusation and even death, to surmount everything, even maybe from the “grave”.  But this isn’t even the “dead hand”.  It’s a miracle if it really is believed. I supposed Adam is a bit like the “angel Billy” in the film (from the same distributor) that I reviewed (Feb. 23), but Billy’s character is better developed, possibly because in the “Billy” film the script takes more time with his inner character.

There are a couple of other points.  I’m not sure I buy Anthony’s sudden kiss of Adam right after his apology for his ruse (which resulted in Adam’s false accusation).  It needs more preparation. When it happens, it could then be more intense.  The film could spin more detail about Adam's responsibility for taking care of his mother after her coronary bypass surgery (my own mother had that surgery at age 85 and lived to 97, until later 2010).  But Adam, it seems, never does wrong, unless you believe one set of scriptural passages "very literally".   

Later, in the film’s middle, the break-in and attack on Adam (he comes home to now-his cabin home in the middle of his place’s being ransacked) is horrific and gratuitous, with the attackers quoting Leviticus and Romans in a way that seems even more vile than in the real-life attack on Matthew Shepard in Wyoming in 1998.  That is upsetting, and you want to see them brought to justice, somehow, before the film ends. Period. Even if Adam “lives”.  But things like this do happen.

And, for the ending, yes, I suppose the “theological implications” could unnerve some people.  But if Christ returned and lived among us as an ordinary, obscure person, would we be too sinful to notice? Help us all!
  
Where was this film actually shot?  Lake Tahoe makes sense.  But is the countryside really in the British Columbia coast mountains?  The sun-filled, early Spring outdoor cinematography is good enough; the lighting in some indoor scenes could use some work.  The film appears to have been shot in HD, and the DVD played in an aspect ratio between 1.85 and 2.35 on my iMac, rather intermediate wide screen.  

The DVD includes two informative featurettes, including a self-interview by Ameer.  The director (who is black and speaks with an accent (French), and might have a North African background) plays the realtor in the scene where the cabin is sold to a new couple. 



I have to say I rather liked this film and it certainly kept me guessing, and wondering.  I even think Roger Ebert would have given it a "thumbs up".  


Picture: Mine, New Hampshire lake country, resembles some scenery in the film.  
  

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