Glitch in the Grid by the Leiser Brothers

Monday, September 26, 2011

Glitch in the Grid In 2007, I received a DVD screener of the film Imagination by the Leiser Brothers and posted this review.

A few weeks ago, I received a DVD screener of their latest film, Glitch in the Grid. I recently posted my 15-word review to Filmometer.com, but I want to expand on my thoughts here.

Glitch in the Grid

Glitch in the Grid by Eric Leiser is a film about three artists—starring the filmmakers—trying to find themselves and understand the next phases of their lives. Acting quality was the main weakness of Imagination, but it is fairly solid in this film. It is apparent that these guys are basically playing themselves, which certainly lends believability to the endeavor and gives the film a documentary flavor.

However, as with any creation inherently about yourself, avoiding self-indulgence remains a challenge. By the end, this film is mired in heavy-handed religious imagery and a general lack of structure. I had wished for the film to illustrate a beautiful, spiritual transformation that would complement the charming animation—and I think it wanted to be such a work of art, but it is weighed down and muddied by a specific, contrived form of spiritual understanding.

The film progresses from an exploratory, open, allegorical animation of the struggles of modern life to what seems like a very narrow, Christian perspective of the infinite forms spirituality can take. I had been hoping for a more inclusive expression of how adults might stay in touch with their inner children and find both personal renewal and spiritual meaning. But the characters seem to believe that rejecting “our fast food society” in favor of accepting Jesus Christ as our personal savior is the only path to happiness and inner peace. Clearly, there are countless ways to leave “the grid” and rediscover childlike wonder and lighthearted humanity. I started to lose interest during the last third of the film because of the degree to which the filmmakers indulge their own personal beliefs and delusions, and aimlessly complain about being marginalized by modern society.

Glitch in the Grid During the first half, I had been interested in, and excited by, the possibilities for cathartic human transformation the film seems to weave—especially as it is being deepened by magical animations of the natural environment. But I was disappointed that the conclusion—despite being one of hope and renewal—feels contrived, vain and strongly tied to conventional Christianity. This film could have held much more meaning for me if the profound power of faith supposedly being illustrated remained more allegorical, if they hadn’t unnecessarily (probably unintentionally) alienated those who might subscribe to a different form of spirituality.

I feel it is a sign of mature filmmakers (and, more broadly, human beings) to be able to move beyond their own worldviews and dogmas and reach for allegories that stretch across and illuminate all of humanity, regardless of their personal mythologies. I don’t feel these guys are quite there yet (are any of us?), but they’re trying hard—and I admire their passion and creativity, despite feeling alienated as a viewer. I also admire their desire to work on their own terms, outside of the Hollywood studio system.

Lastly, as I brought up in my review of Imagination, I selfishly wish Eric Leiser would more fully focus his filmmaking in the realm of stop-motion animation, along the lines of Jan Svankmajer or the Brothers Quay or Michel Gondry, because I feel his unique animation style is an obvious strength of both films and I would love to see more of it.

Thanks to the Leiser Brothers for the opportunity to watch their film. I look forward to their next project, as they continue to grow as people and artists. Theatrical screenings of Glitch in the Grid are coming soon to New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland and more. You can watch the Glitch in the Grid trailer at albinofawn.com.

Attention Oregonians: On Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 7 pm, there will be a Glitch in the Grid screening in Portland at the Hollywood Theatre.

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