Sunday, April 17, 2016
Mania tells the story of Mel (Ellie Church) and Brooke (Tristan Risk), two lesbian lovers who live together in a quiet suburb. When Brooke lapses on her medication and commits a brutal murder, the two must flee their home and go on the run as their lives are changed forever.
Mania is the kind of movie that starts with a bang and then spends the rest of it's run time sneaking back up on you. It's about desire, want, love, demons, need, sex, and acceptance yet boasts a simplistic story that allows the two characters to slowly get into your head and haunt you in different ways. The brilliant trick of Mania is that those different ways end up being the same ghost, as Mel and Brooke slowly bleed into each other from opposite ends of the spectrum as the film progresses, yet couldn't be more different. Let me explain.
A lot of time is spent with the camera close up on the faces of the two leads. One reason for this may be the amount of time that Mel and Brook spend in a car in close quarters together, but several other moments outside of the car are also in close up and I found this a fascinating and effective choice. What these close ups reveal are the empty vessel like gaze with storms behind the eyes of Tristan Risk and the constant state of worry and concern on the face of Ellie Church. The faces of these characters are opposite sides of the same Mania coin.
Mania is a magnificent mash-up from a script that director Jessica Cameron infuses with style and know how of several genres. It's directed with ferocity that allows for explicit gore, sensual sex scenes, and beautiful, haunting, and surreal dream sequences that pop with over saturated reds and blues and yellows that recall Argento and 1970's Italian cinema. It's a little bit grind house, a little bit art house, and a little bit of an old fashioned slasher movie all swirling around a love story.
Mania offers a complex and layered analysis to be had. The film calls itself “a fucked up lesbian love story,” but about half way through Mania I was thinking it was more “a lesbian love story that gets fucked up”. By the end of the film I decided it was both. The mania works on two fronts here: Brooke and her uncontrollable killing spree, and Mel and her uncontrollable love for Brooke. The two characters couldn't be more opposite, really. The only logical connection they have to each other is love and it's easy to think that the title Mania refers only to Brooke and her lack of inhibitions but I feel the film demands more than that as it refers to both Mel and Brooke. Mel is seemingly in the same mental state as Brooke, her lack of inhibitions is what allows for the nightmarish scenario to continue.
This ability of the film to get inside my head long after I left the screening of it is what has me appreciating the hell out of it. Is it a masterpiece? No. There are some things I wish the script handled better: Mel and her extreme willingness to simply go along with whatever Mel said seemed too easy for me. The script also seemed to set up some scenarios a little too nicely. For example the set up that led Mel and Brooke to be dinner guests at a particular characters house seemed too contrived. But I have to say that I was very impressed with Mania as a whole and am just stuck on Cameron's obvious clear vision for the movie and the complex depiction of love the characters and story present.
As of this writing, Mania can only be caught at film festivals. If it comes anywhere near you I highly suggest checking this film out, it's a fantastic thinking piece of cinema that I can't wait to revisit!