SXSW FILM 2011
By Don Simpson | May 7, 2011
Director: Sophia Takal
Writer: Sophia Takal
Starring: Kate Lyn Sheil, Sophia Takal, Lawrence Michael Levine
Allow me to begin with a tip of the hat to Smells Like Screen Spirit’s Associate Editor Dirk Sonniksen who really nailed it in his review of Sophia Takal’s Green. I am not sure I have a whole lot to add to Dirk’s review, but I will do the best that I can…
Jealousy can turn people into monsters, which explains the pervasive horror film tone throughout Green — a technique that worked incredibly well on me, because I approached the film completely green. For all I knew, Green could have very well been a slasher film. So, I want to pause right here and give my spiel about films that truly benefit from lack of knowledge… What I loved most about my first viewing of Green was the uncertainty; the thought that writer-director Sophia Takal’s film could turn into a total bloodbath at any moment. The tension is always there — fueled by Ernesto Carcamo’s spine-tingling score. Not knowing if and when blood would be shed truly adds to the cinematic experience; as does not knowing which way Takal will take the narrative at each intersection it reaches. Before reading on, let me repeat myself one more time: Please read on only after viewing Green…
Those of you who are still reading this review have either already seen Green or are incredibly stubborn. Either way, I will continue…
Sebastian (Lawrence Michael Levine) and Genevieve (Kate Lyn Sheil) rent a secluded country house in rural West Virginia because Sebastian has been commissioned to work on a sustainable agriculture blog. Does Sebastian have a background in agriculture? No, but he is a bookish, hyper-intelligent fellow who is wholeheartedly confident that he can hoe with the best of them.
Genevieve, who is Sebastian’s intellectual equal, is just along for the ride; she finds herself having to be entirely reliant upon Sebastian — a demeaning and degrading position for any person to be in. The backwoods of West Virginia offer no possibilities for work or entertainment, so Genevieve knows that she is destined to become bored and restless in no time; her only hope is that her books will keep her company while Sebastian is off toiling in the dirt.
Then, Robin (Sophia Takal) stumbles into the picture. Her primitive intellectual naiveté is no match for the patronizing couple from New York City, but Genevieve befriends Robin despite her uneducatedness. Then again, what other choice does she have? It is not like any high-brow New York hipsters will be moving into the neighborhood any time soon and Robin has already ingratiated herself into their lives. To say that Robin is gregarious and eager is an understatement, she is like a stray dog that has find found the owners that she always desired.
Genevieve and Sebastian’s relationship is not without problems. They each possess a burning desire to out-smart each other — repeatedly challenging each other’s knowledge of literature, art and philosophy. Genevieve and Sebastien also begin to struggle with problems of the sexual nature. This excites Genevieve’s imagination, prompting thoughts that Sebastian and Robin have fallen for each other. Other than glimpsing moments of Genevieve’s imagination gone wild — in which Robin and Sebastian are observed together in several erotic sex scenes — Robin’s motives in befriending Genevieve (and Sebastian?) are left completely ambiguous. We sense that Genevieve is driven by nothing more than her own fears and jealousy. It only adds fuel to the fire that Robin — the hick chick from the sticks — is the one person perceptive enough to see what is really going on with Genevieve and Sebastian’s relationship.
Takal won the Chicken & Egg Emergent Narrative Woman Director Award at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival and that was not without reason. Green comes from a uniquely feminine perspective as Takal takes on the issues involved specifically in female jealousy and discusses the effect said jealousy has on personal relationships and one’s own grasp on reality. Insecurity, anxiety, and madness fester in Genevieve’s mind due to paranoia and miscommunication; and we discover that even though Genevieve’s hatred and aggression seems to be directed towards Robin, the situation really unearths Genevieve’s true feelings for Sebastian.
Takal has cited my favorite Robert Altman film — 3 Women — as an influence on Green, which could explain why I like Green so much. Both films approach female relationships — specifically female jealousy — with a certain level of obliqueness. Atmosphere and environment play an important factor in both films too. Specifically for Green, the densely forested environs are not only suffocating and ostracizing but they also lend Green a spooky and menacing horror film aesthetic. Something always appears to be lurking in the woods. Maybe it is jealousy? Maybe it is something more? Green is a purely psychological horror film — the violence is all in the mind — and one of the best I have seen in ages.