A story of amour fou. Walt is madly in love/lust with a young illegal Mexican immigrant. However, the object of his unrequited affection doesn't even speak any English and finds Walt really... See full summary »
This story has elements that call to mind a real misadventure that ended with one person murdering another under very similar conditions. The murder of David Coughlin by Raffi Kodikian in New Mexico in 1999 occurred while both were lost together in Rattlesnake Canyon. Written by
Two college-aged men who refer to each other as "Gerry" (Casey Affleck and Matt Damon) venture into the desert for a carefree, fun adventure, seemingly oblivious to the dangers that such an environment may conceal.
At face value, the story is not logical. Two guys with brains would never hike into a desert without water. Nor would they be so ignorant about geography that they couldn't get their compass bearings straight, with sun and stars to guide them, and in a landscape with such varied terrain as mountains, scrub brush, and salt flats. Further, in the absence of a safety kit, hiking long distances in rugged country almost certainly would have resulted in feet blisters, making further hiking impossible.
Ergo, we are left with two interpretations of this film. On the one hand, as some suggest, Damon and Affleck conceived the film as a joke to fool gullible viewers who naively perceive the film as "art". Alternately, the film may be construed as a genuine cinematic expression of existential philosophy consistent with Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, with themes that run deep.
The first interpretation is cynical. With their credibility on the line, and with the film's budget at over $3 million, reputable actors, directors, or producers would not pursue a project with such a devious motive as to try and fool the audience, in my opinion.
Accordingly, I take the position that "Gerry" is a well-crafted "art" film produced to counterbalance modern Hollywood films that are characterized by gaudy and intrusive special effects, loudness, irritatingly fast action, absence of thematic depth, and unnecessary complexity.
In "Gerry", depending on scene, the dialogue ranges from sparse to nonexistent. Background music is slow, mournful, mystical, and toward the end ... ominous. Images are simple and stark. Extremely long camera "takes", with the average length of each camera shot being about sixty seconds, render a pacing so slow that most viewers will fidget in their seats, become impatient, or may even give up watching. But for those willing to "endure", the film makes for good soul medicine. "Gerry" thus has qualities that make it rather Zen-like.
"Gerry" reminds me of "The Tracker" (2002). In both films, every single scene, without exception, takes place outdoors. And, with its desolate mountains, lunar landscape, and general absence of human artifacts, "Gerry" recalls to mind the 1964 sci-fi film "Robinson Crusoe On Mars". In all three of these films, the emphasis is on sparseness, simplicity, and survival.
Most filmmakers travel in cinematic ruts. Most viewers live with the herd, and travel the same worn paths in life. As the film's director, Gus Van Sant ventures down a different, less traveled cinematic path, one meant to invoke themes that will appeal mostly to nonconformists.
For viewers who can endure the slowness and the tedium, the film has a lot to say about decisions, fate, responsibilities, despair, and about life in general. Its story may not be altogether logical. But neither is a Zen koan. And those forbidding landscapes are hauntingly beautiful.
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