AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2013
By Don Simpson | October 27, 2013
Director: Darren Paul Fisher
Writer: Darren Paul Fisher
Starring: David Barnaby, Timothy Block, David Broughton-Davies, Ria Carroll, Tom England, Daniel Fraser, Lily Laight, Dylan Llewellyn, Georgina Minter-Brown, Kayti Moran, Emma Powell, Owen Pugh, Charlie Rixon, Freddie Rose, Carolyn Tomkinson, Ethan Turton, Eleanor Wyld, Doris Zajer
OXV: The Manual exists in a seemingly alternate universe in which humans are differentiated — often segregated — according to their frequencies. These frequencies are the backbone of one’s destiny, despite the recurring mantra “knowledge determines destiny.” Those lucky enough to be born with high frequencies are considered to be highly intelligent, while low frequencies are deemed less fortunate; each person’s frequency also determines who are compatible as friends and lovers. Extremely high frequencies should never mix with those on the far low end of the EQ spectrum, risking catastrophic consequences if they do. As far as it can be determined, the frequencies that people are born with cannot be adjusted; so, the primary role of education is to teach the students how to use their inherent frequencies to their fullest potential.
Zak (aka “Isaac Newton”) is an extremely low frequency who is helplessly infatuated with Marie (aka “Marie Curie”), an extremely high frequency. They are so incompatible that they cannot spend more than one minute together or else some really terrible things happen. Marie has taken it upon herself to test the complimentary and repulsive relationships of her fellow students. Recognizing the extreme polarity of Zak’s frequency in comparison to her’s, Marie takes an especially keen interest in him. Their relationship slowly develops in a string of meetings shrouded in the superficial excuse that Marie needs to collect more data. Even though Marie’s frequency is so high that it has rendered her an emotionless yet hyper-intelligent machine, her attraction to Zak seems to go beyond mere scientific data.
Like Shane Carruth’s films, Darren Paul Fisher’s OXV: The Manual firmly grounds itself in a perplexing web of seemingly convincing scientific logic; but just like time travel (Primer) and psychotropic maggots (Upstream Color), the reality of OXV: The Manual boils down to pure science fiction. It is a blessing and a curse associated with being compared to Shane Carruth. For me, this analogy means that Carruth and Fisher share the ability to present hyper-intelligent stories in complex worlds on an impressively modest budget, but others seem to perceive Carruth’s (and possibly Fisher’s) unique narrative approach to be overtly oblique and impenetrable. That said, I actually find OXV: The Manual to be a bit too expository for my tastes. There are just a few too many monologues that seem to over explain what is going on; but, regardless, OXV: The Manual is still one of the smartest science fiction films I have seen in quite a while.