By Don Simpson | January 28, 2016
Director: Daniel Martinico
Writers: Daniel Martinico, Hugo Armstrong
Starring: Hugo Armstrong, Jacqueline Wright, Mandy Freund, Cody Henderson
Daniel Martinico’s Excursions starts off fairly unsuspecting, relishing in the mundanities of life. A wife (Jacqueline Wright) and husband (Hugo Armstrong) arrive at a remote house surrounded by a dense forest. They silently unpack groceries, then lift their suitcases up a spiral staircase. The seemingly mundane activities continue with the chopping of wood and yoga, and conclude with the couple reading in bed. But what is most striking about this initial ten minute sequence (well, besides the transcendent cinematography) is the lack of dialogue. Has this couple reached that phase of their marriage that they no longer feel the need to communicate or are they angry with each other? Will there be any dialogue in this film?
Eventually, another couple (Mandy Freund, Cody Henderson) arrives at the house. The foursome eats, drinks and plays a variety of games (ranging from rock-paper-scissors to dominoes). When the couples do talk, the conversations feel forced and inconsequential; Martinico, instead, keeps the film’s focus on the significance of their surrounding environment, preferring the sounds of ambient noises over dialogue.
The next day, the two couples start an intense cleansing process, leading into a series of new age-y rituals. Their goal, presumably, is to achieve some sort of enlightenment. A psychedelic freak-out of sorts, Martinico develops this phase of the film into a hypnotically rhythmic menagerie of sounds and images. Rapid fire close-ups of hands and faces are paired with the grunts and moans of the soundtrack, visually deconstructing the raw emotional intensity of the activities, rather than showing the activities as a cohesive whole. It is a beautiful yet beguiling experience.
Martinico captures each chapter of the film in subtly unique ways, making slight changes in the sound design, editing structure, and the camerawork. His enrapturing approach to purely visceral storytelling creates an entrancingly oblique piece of art that will most likely be too challenging for the average moviegoer, but will lull adept cineastes into a state of cinematic bliss. Excursions will certainly test and challenge the ever-shortening attention spans of the world (or at least the United States), but judging from OK, Good (Slamdance 2012) and now Excursions, Martinico knows precisely who his audience is.