Multitasking filmmaking maestro, Shane Carruth, proves he is fast becoming the puzzle master of filmmaking with Upstream Colour (aka Upstream Color). It's a sumptuous enigma that's intricately constructed and a beautifully shot film that would make Terrence Malick blush.
Kris (Amy Seimetz) and Jeff (Carruth) get caught in the life cycle of an organism that puts a dent in their lives. The duo and others who come into contact with the creature struggle to make sense of the strange chain of events affecting them.
Upstream Colour follows the same style as Carruth's previously directed film Primer. You are dropped into the situation with no guidance or signposts to the plot. There is no character who dishes out lengthy explanations and there is no scrolling text opener. Carruth's film is one of genuine discovery and it's built on beautiful visuals by the director who is also his own cinematographer (writer, actor, producer and composer as well). The film deals with microbiological themes inherent within the life cycle with nature, nothing goes to waste. Carruth uses brilliant sunbursts, lush surroundings, flora bursting with life, and deep green vegetation to amplify these ideas. The man-made structures like buildings and public transport feel cold and disconnected with distinct grey and blue tones. Each frame of the film is packed with imagery that pushes the story forward and it implores you to explore and decipher all the clues. Minimal dialogue ensures eyeballs are always glued to the screen and at full attention looking for that morsel of information that might lead to a Eureka moment. Everything is open to interpretation but nothing is served on a platter for easy consumption. Sometimes it seems as if Carruth has purposely removed a few pieces from the jigsaw puzzle to heighten the difficulty level, and it tightens his firm grip on your engagement with the material and it's a little suffocating.
Seimetz and Carruth form a unique bond and their onscreen presence together is like watching two kindred spirits navigate bleak terrain. They work incredibly well together trying to make sense of the oddities impeding on their lives and a touching bond develops.
The music soars and has a wondrous tone reminiscent of the soundscapes used in David Attenborough documentaries. It adds to the biological environment at work with different types of organisms feeding off each other.
Thinking caps are compulsory for Upstream Colour and multiple viewings are sure to be a requirement to fully embrace the concepts at play; a credit to Carruth's densely layered storytelling.
Cameron Williams - follow Cam on Twitter here: @popcornjunkies