By Don Simpson | April 20, 2012
Director: Benjamin Dickinson
Writer: Benjamin Dickinson
Starring: Samantha Jacober, Jennifer Kim, Lindsay Burdge, Matthew Chastain, Paul Manza, Kate Lyn Sheil, Jaffe Zinn
At some point in the past, Paul (Paul Manza) convinced some of his cutest female yoga students to travel with him to his secluded farmhouse. It is an extremely cold winter and the power has gone out, thus transporting the utopian household back to a time before heat and electricity. At first it seems like an adventure for the presumably privileged class, a time to play “hippie commune circa 1969.”
The “Brooklyn hipsters” (as some critics and journalists have taken to categorizing the characters) continue with business as usual — participating in a daily regimen of yoga and meditation, then filling in the remaining hours of the days with sex and drugs. It is abundantly clear why the predatory yoga instructor recruited the flexible and fit females to his secluded lair; but it is never explained why the other men are there, other than to assist with chopping firewood and other manly chores. Paul has his pick of which women he can seduce at any given time — and usually it is more than one at a time. The other guys barely register on any of women’s radars; it seems when the women are not with Paul, they would prefer to frolic nakedly with each other instead of with one of the other guys.
The promiscuously enlightened air cannot withstand the stresses of time, frigid weather, and tyrannical rationing of food; the restrictive seclusion of the location does not help matters either. Except for a lone radio, there is no connection with the outside world (presumably no one has cell phone reception), which goes along with First Winter‘s post-apocalyptic vibe. Whether or not they have an option to leave is uncertain; Paul functions as a cult leader who has lulled most of his flock of housemates into a sheepish state of submission. It is clear that the household’s days are numbered; they will probably not survive like this for much longer, cut off from the rest of the world.
The question remains, what is writer-director Benjamin Dickinson telling us? Is he metaphorically predicting the demise of the cult of Brooklyn hipsters? Has this tight knit, holier than thou subculture cut themselves off from reality to the point of no return? Will their carefree lifestyle of yoga, meditation, slow food, and free love — not to mention the males’ dedication to their facial hair — actually become the death of their culture? Surely, I jest. But it will be interesting to hear what others take away from First Winter.
Before I sign off, I really wish I had not heard about the deer incident prior to watching First Winter. While I understand the unbridled realism that Dickinson and his actors were attempting to achieve, it was pretty irresponsible of them. Yes, I am a vegetarian and animal rights advocate, but I actually have no problem with people killing animals for food, especially when done skillfully and humanely (or as humanely as killing can be). I also realize that in reality, these characters would not have waited for hunting season. They needed to kill the deer in order to survive; which brings to question the legitimacy of hunting restrictions for people who rely upon hunting for their day-to-day survival. That is all a slippery slope, so I will return to the point I am trying to make — in the world of cinema there are plenty of other realistic ways to represent a deer hunting scene without actually killing a deer.