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David, an independent photographer, and Katia, an unemployed woman, leave Los Angeles, en route to the southern California desert, where they search a natural set to use as a backdrop for a magazine photo shoot. They find a motel in the town of Twentynine Palms and spend their days in their sport-utility vehicle, discovering the Joshua Tree Desert, and losing themselves on nameless roads and trails. Frantically making love all the time and almost everywhere, they regularly fight, then kiss and make up, with little else going on in their empty relationship and quite ordinary daily life--until something horrible and hideous brutally puts an end to their trip. Written by
Elisabeth Jereski originally planned to cast Marine Corporal Joshua James in the lead, but was rebuffed by his local Squadron Commander, Lt. Col. F.J. Usry, as the graphic sex scenes and violence would portray the Marine Corps, with which James was actively serving in 29 Palms, in a "less than positive light in the community." See more »
Great, unusual experience - very strong, raw, primordial...
This seems to be a serious film, although it's easy to misunderstand it or to be appalled by it. Scenes of "animalistic" sex with almost no conversation or foreplay, scenes of horrific violence, hardly any plot -- all that might be a total turn-off for many.
I was lucky to attend a Q&A session with the director, where he answered a lot of questions. The idea for this film was born when Dumont was in California desert, and, as he puts it, "I was afraid". It seems the time and space and the silence and the power of it all influenced him very much. Among other things, he addressed the audience before the film started, with "if you become afraid when you watch this film, just cover your face with hands".
He also stated later that the film is an experiemnt at expressing his feelings, and has no intent, or narrative, or message. The director is free to express himself, and the spectator is free to see whatever (s)he may in the film and take that away. The characters are stripped of anything that would make them likeable or dislikeable, and generally of anything but the very primitive in order to make the experience pure.
The characters are not the focus of the film; sound and background are. "Untreated" location sound was used throughout the film and is very important for the director to convey the sense of the place and time. In one scene one could even hear the sound of lighting generator behind the camera, which Dumont refused to edit out during the argument with the sound crew. Camerawork is also original and important in this experience.
The serenity of transcendent scenes remind me of Zabriskie Point. Using explicit sex and violence remind me of Irreversible and I Stand Alone. Yet, this is certainly not a "following", this is a highly personal expression, which is designed to generate a highly personal experience for any viewer.
Altogether NOT recommended if one is looking for "normal" filmgoing experience.
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