Nine Days (Part 1):"Soul deep"
Nine Days (Part 1): Film Review
To describe a movie as 'deep and meaningful' elicits a sense that the movie will communicate profound ideas or immediately make people’s eyes roll indicating it will be tedious, confounding, perplexing and will present a viewing experience similar to walking through wet cement.
As I watched Nine Days, it wasn’t clear to me immediately whether the film was profound or if the complexity of ideas was confusing and perplexing with no obvious clarity.
It is certainly a significant film. As it unfolds, Nine Days becomes, to quote Alice in Alice in Wonderland, "Curiouser and curiouser". Any film that makes you delve into its ideas and the concepts behind its content is worth consideration. And Nine Days is substantial.
On the surface, Nine Days is a straightforward film about a man, Will (Winston Duke), an Interviewer, who interviews several people about a position, much like being interviewed for a job. He lives in a 1950s style cottage-house in the middle of a vast, flat, seemingly empty plain.
Will and the candidates
The candidates for the position answer a series of hypothetical situations posed by Will. He photographs them using a Polaroid instant camera. He says there are no wrong or correct answers. He also invites them to watch a wall of old-fashioned television sets with images that look like homemade camcorder video movies. The interviews and viewing of videos occurs over a period of nine days.
After that time, based on the answers the candidates give, Will decides who will be the successful candidate.
At this point, you may ask what’s interesting about watching a series of job interviews. This is where the film becomes stimulating and curious.
Will interviews people for the position of life. You heard correctly. The candidates exist before they achieve life. They have not lived. The candidates who don’t meet the cut fade away into oblivion.
I have deliberately called them candidates rather than souls. They look and speak like everyday people but they are in a state of pre-existence.
The vision we have in the TV sets are live-streamed videos of previous successful candidates, interviewed by Will, living their lives.
Throughout the entire nine day process, we also learn that Will is challenged because he had a life but now doesn’t; his post-life existence is now as an interviewer. It poses the question as to why he still doesn't have a life and how he became an interviewer.
Will and the wall of streamed lives
He is obsessed with the vision of one woman, Amanda, a concert violinist prodigy, whose life, or, to be precise, her video stream, suddenly ends as we watch. We get a clear sense that what happened to the woman also happened to Will when he lived. His emotional stance shapes his psychological reactions and inability to understand what happened.
Successful candidates, like Amanda, were chosen because they showed during their interviews that they were able to handle life with all its pain, suffering, pleasure and joy.
I won’t reveal too many details because you should experience the film, its characters, and the events for yourself.
Suffice it to say, there’s a lot more to see and consider. Who is Kyo (Benedict Wong), Will’s assistant who hasn’t lived but hasn’t faded to oblivion? What is the nature of the special memories Will re-creates for candidates? Do we call the candidates 'souls'? Why does one of the filing cabinets in Will’s basement have a false front?
You now may exclaim, what a curious, odd, bizarre, perplexing and dense film. You will be correct using one or more of those terms.
This is where the film develops a life of its own for each audience member.
As I watched, I answered Will’s hypothetical questions as if I was being interviewed. I scanned and peeked into the lives of the people living their existence from a first-person point-of-view on the television screens.
Emma (Zazie Beetz)
In one sense, we become the voyeurs watching Will watching others. Just as Will considers and decides about the candidate’s suitability for life, we deliberate on WIll’s position as the interrogator and develop an awareness of the movie's director Adson Oda’s eye watching the actors through a camera lens.
You may feel your brain twisting into a cerebral pretzel at this moment. Perhaps you’ve decided you don’t like pretzels anymore. Be patient. If you wish to explore the film’s deeper possible meanings in the next blog post from Screen Speak, I shall share my musings about the philosophical elements and implications of the movie in
Nine Days (Part 2):“A philosophical indulgence & a metaphysical pretzel”.
Nine Days stands on its own as a complete film without pursuing philosophical deliberations. Its central conceit of one person choosing who is given "life" is interesting of and unto itself. You understand Will's self doubts and uncertainties. He is given a sense of fulfilment through his interaction with one candidate, Emma (Zazie Beetz), whose personality is unlike all the other candidates. There is a definite endpoint. All your questions beyond that go to building your own support structure to further understand the concepts behind the movie.
Official Trailer Nine Days
What makes Nine Days extra-ordinary is Edson Oda’s vision. Nine Days (Part 2):"A metaphysical pretzel", which has been posted on Screen Speak, provides you with a detailed interview with director Edson Oda about his inspiration for the story, WIll’s character and what the film means. In that regard, the fundamental notion behind Nine Days is simple. Our suspicion that Will’s role relates to a person in Anson Oda’s own family is realised.
Movie fun fact: Nine Days was filmed, unlike most films, in order according to the script from the first shot to the last. That, in itself, makes it an interesting experience to watch.
To understand Nine Days, it is important that you encounter, then immerse yourself by watching the film before you read and reflect and link to any other reviews or articles. Work out as much as you can understand and then think it over, chat with others and finally read Oda’s reasons and explanations about the film, the landscape, and on whom he based Will's character.
But watch the film first with an open mind. You may feel perplexed; you may feel liberated; you may feel distressed around the tragedy surrounding Amanda and the hints of Will’s reason for feeling unfulfilled.
Official Poster Nine Days (Look what's in the sky at the top of the poster)
Suffice it to say, Nine Days won't let you become a passive audience by letting images glide over you or having your senses pummelled. Your cerebral cortex will be engaged. If 'deep and meaningful' is not your kind of movie, then, fair enough, you might not want to watch Nine Days.
On the other hand, if you find yourself drawn to Alice in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland’s comment, “Curiouser and curiouser”, as an indicator about Nine Days, then watch the film, shape your thoughts about what you have seen and join me for a further consideration of concepts in Nine Days (Part 2): ”A metaphysical pretzel”.
End of Nine Days (Part 1)
FILM EXTRAS: The meaning of life
"I think, therefore, I watch movies"
What's with the pretzels? The philosophical musings about the movie Nine Days might turn your brain into an existential pretzel. Therefore, you’ll have to decide whether or not you like pretzels. Before you read Part 2, the follow-up to my review of Nine Days (published as the next blog posting for Screen Speak), and want to unwind for awhile, check these other movies, from the profound to the ridiculous, about the meaning of life in movies.
Charlie Kaufman's Being John Malkovich (1999)
A puppeteer takes up a job to support his family. While working late one night, he finds a portal that leads directly to the head of the Hollywood actor John Malkovich. Have you ever visited the
13th and a half floor of a building? You will. If you think that's weird, you ain't seen enough movies. It's fantastical and fantastic viewing. But definitely odd.
BTW I, eclectic Stefan, have one of those John Malkovich masks shown in the poster! Yes, really, and I will wear it if you don't believe me. Creepy? Maybe.
WATCH Being John Malkovich
Check streaming availability in your region.
Peter Weir’s The Truman Show (1998)
An insurance salesman is oblivious of the fact that his entire life is a TV show and his family members are mere actors. He doesn't know it, but everything in Truman Burbank's (Jim Carrey) life is part of a massive TV set. Executive producer Christof (Ed Harris) orchestrates "The Truman Show," a live broadcast of Truman's every move captured by hidden cameras.
WATCH The Truman Show
Check streaming availability in your region.
Michael Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004)
After a painful breakup, Clementine (Kate Winslet) undergoes a procedure to erase memories of her former boyfriend Joel (Jim Carrey) from her mind. When Joel discovers that Clementine is going to extremes to forget their relationship, he undergoes the same procedure and slowly begins to forget the woman that he loved. This visually arresting film explores the intricacy of relationships and the pain of loss.
WATCH Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Check streaming availability in your region.