March 31, 2008

The 4th Dimension


Reviewer: Greg Birkel
Rating (out of 5): **½

The 4th Dimension started out as a twenty minute Temple University film school project for the two writer/directors, Tom Materra and Dave Mazzoni. Shot on a shoestring budget, the feature film is beautifully photographed, largely in black and white, and set in an indeterminate historical period populated with 19th century costumes and artifacts mixed with anachronistic items like refrigerators and console television sets. Adrift in this black and white world is Jack, played by Louis Morabito, a young man afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder, who is seriously distracted by his musings on the nature of time and Einstein's general theory of relativity. At one point, Jack dreams that Einstein concealed a notebook, full of musings on the grand unification theory of physics, in an old clock that he (Jack) has been asked to repair. Since many of Jack's dreams tend to come true, it isn't long before he discovers the hidden notebook, deepening the intrigue.

The filmmakers do a good job creating an air of mystery and tension as we flash back to Jack's childhood and forward to the "present" time, where Jack works in a shop restoring antiques. The soundtrack includes pulsing electronica that sounds like heavy machinery operating in the next room, producing a sense of unease straight out of a David Lynch film. The general sense of impending doom is lightened by flashes of humor and Louis Morabito's skilled portrayal of Jack's many quirks. Close-ups of Jack's compulsive hand-washing serve as rhythmic punctuation throughout the film. On the downside, some of the other actors are not particularly good, and there is stilted speechifying from some of the characters that slows the pace of the movie.

It's hard to talk about the end of he film without spoiling it, but I will just say that I was disappointed with the ultimate revelations in Jack's universe. The answers seemed too pat, robbing much of what had come before of its mystery. In addition, the end of the film contains an homage to one of the admittedly interesting locations used for shooting, and this seems tacked on as an afterthought. Overall, The 4th Dimension is an admirable first effort, an intriguing meditation on the nature of time and loss. It will be interesting to see what projects these filmmakers tackle next.

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Posted by cphillips at March 31, 2008 5:10 PM
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