No Budge Films
By Don Simpson | February 16, 2013
Director: Brandon Colvin
Writer: Brandon Colvin
Starring: Holland Noël, Maria Travis, Tim Towne, Michelle Parker, Alan Struthers
Peter (Holland Noël) is a young, aspiring documentary filmmaker who shoots his quaint Wisconsin hometown with poetic artfulness. His camera placement is oh-so-purposeful as he carefully composes his shots to develop relationships between the onscreen objects. It is as if the intentional framing establishes a uniquely cinematic meaning for the objects; by choosing what appears within the frame, Peter creates connections and disconnections.
This unadulterated cinematic world serves as an escape for Peter, whose home life is excruciatingly mundane. For the most part, Peter remains secluded in his bedroom, reviewing and editing his footage. When Peter ventures outside of his bedroom, his conversations with his parents (Michelle Parker, Alan Struthers) are stilted and emotionless, as if they are merely actors who have been forced to appear in the same scene as Peter.
Peter’s only human connection is with Vera (Maria Travis). Obviously craving Peter’s attention, Vera begins to assist Peter with his documentary. In reality, Vera wants to be the star of Peter’s film, despite the fact that it is an experimental documentary with no people. Vera critiques Peter’s desire to shoot scenes without people as “shots of nothing.” Peter on the other hand knows precisely what he wants as a director, dictating instructions to Vera such as “sit still, hold [the camera] steady and face the street.” Vera is just a crew member to Peter; he is completely oblivious to Vera’s interest in him. It is not until Vera becomes mysteriously distant that Peter realizes that he misses her; but, by then its too late, Vera has already vanished from Peter’s life.
This is where writer-director Brandon Colvin’s Frames evolves into a story of obsession and intrigue, using Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window as a recurring reference point. Peter is not necessary obsessed with Vera, but with the image of her body; unknowingly, Vera becomes the seductive starlet of Peter’s production. Peter continues to replay her one starring scene over and over again as if his film is jammed, unable to proceed beyond that point. Stuck in what appears to be a cinematic reality established by the repeated reconstruction and analysis of recorded images, Peter becomes the detective in Vera’s narrative, delving into the nuances and subtle details of oblique cinematic clues; but when he finds himself in danger, Peter also discovers that he has lost total directorial control of his life.
Frames is a film that immerses itself fully into the falseness of cinema, as Colvin plays with the notion of performance and the cinematic representations of reality. It really helps that, as actors, Holland Noël and Maria Travis are totally game for this charade. Of course, this means that the audience must acclimate to the cold and calculated tone of the film; otherwise, Frames could be totally misconstrued as a horrible film. Hopefully the audience will recognize the true genius of Frames, which is how Colvin uses Peter’s idiosyncratic approach to filmmaking to deconstruct his own production. By observing Peter, we become increasingly aware that we are essentially observing Colvin’s avatar. They both abide by the same theories of composition, constructing their stories purely by framing the images in a particular manner.