By Don Simpson | February 18, 2015
Director: Frank Mosley
Writer: Frank Mosley
Starring: Lauren McCune, Morgana Shaw, Crystal Pate, Jack Elliott, Riley Templeton
It somehow seems most fitting to describe Her Wilderness in a long string of adjectives and nouns. The meticulously chosen words would not abide by the grammatical rules of a traditional sentence, but their proximity to the other words around them would solicit a greater sense of meaning. It goes without saying, however, the resulting jumbled mess of words would be utterly torturous to attempt to read. Visual storytelling does not suffer from that particular limitation. In written form, writer-director Frank Mosley’s Her Wilderness probably would not make much sense at all; but in this purely cinematic universe, the visual associations formed by the string of scenes and images allows Her Wilderness to transcend the narrative form. Mosley’s freewheeling dream logic allows him to create a vibrant fantasy out of minimalistic slices of reality.
With this structure, Mosley is able to set afloat seemingly random ideas and concepts and allow them to derive significance within the context of the film’s conceptual space. Mosley’s script contemplates the roles that fate, luck, randomness, accidents, divine intervention and one’s own volition play within the characters’ personal narratives. Her Wilderness also examines the meaning and meaninglessness of words, specifically the truths and fictions that people speak (one of Mosley’s more brilliant visual metaphors allows the camera to float among random piles of books as someone tells a story that we know to be a blatant lie). Even when conversing with another person, the characters tend to speak and not listen (or at least not care what the other person is saying). In one crucial scene with Paula (Crystal Pate) and Nicholas (Jack Elliott), they speak practically in unison as their conversation drifts apart and eventually winds back together again.
The personal connections within Her Wilderness seem to exist in a more allegorical and tonal realm, than a literal one. For the majority of the film, the hair color of three of the female actors — Lauren McCune, Morgana Shaw and Riley Templeton — is the only apparent link between their characters’ lives. For the most part, these three characters exist in their own silos within Her Wilderness. We experience their solitary nature — within nature, in the case of the young girl — within the confines of their worlds. As the young girl, Templeton aimlessly wanders the winding pathways of the forest, often getting lost among the dense canopy of leaves and branches. Templeton’s character might be related to McCune and/or Shaw’s character, or perhaps she is a childhood memory of one of their pasts, or maybe even a visual representation of their mental state(s). (All of this begs the question: whose wilderness is “her” wilderness?)
While Mosley’s film may sound like some impenetrable avant-garde visual art piece, Her Wilderness is quite accessible, though probably not to mainstream audiences. Her Wilderness is not made for multiplexes, it is designed for a much more intimate experience; it deserves to be studied and reevaluated, with each viewing possibly triggering new interpretations or insights. A compilation of occasionally oblique visual signifiers, Her Wilderness is a unique cinematic experience that needs to be seen (and interpreted) as the sum of its parts — the old idiom “can’t see the forest for the trees” seems to take on multiple meanings here.