It's a funny thing that in this day and age of internet society through which it was able to take root and grow, the first I ever heard of "Broken Saints" was by old fashioned window shopping. This alone, I think, means that I have missed out on a gigantic part of what made the series so enticing to many; not only that it was completely free but that it stood as a testament to the Internet's fulfilled promise of a global community and prosperous mass medium for independent artists. This was not the first internet series I have purchased on DVD; Rooster Teeth's "Red vs. Blue", an online Machinema production created by independent Texan film-makers, remains one of the most delightful discoveries of my life. However, "Broken Saints" is the first independent internet project I have bought entirely on spec, and this goes towards proving that there is more to the series' appeal than its initial medium.
Brooke Burgess' flash creation is one of the most unique works of art I have ever encountered. Consisting of 24 episodes of increasing length (beginning at 10 minutes and eventually running for over an hour), the series uses a fusion of comic narration, flash animation, music and, in the case of the remastered DVD version, voice acting to propel its story, the premise for which is inherently twisted. As the slow reveal is a major part of the series' deep intrigue, I will try to reveal nothing further than might be read in a blurb: On the unsuspecting cusp of a new technological age, four complete and diverse strangers begin to simultaneously receive violent spiritual turbulences; seizures, visions, crises of faith, inexplicable emotions. Strange, disturbing events in each of their lives drive them desperate for answers, and the harder they search for absolution, the closer they come to each other and the higher the stakes climb.
Now what I am about to say is something that really confused me at first: as a story, I didn't like "Broken Saints" all that much. It uses a very David Lynch style kind of linear narration (borderline nonsensical), and although all the vague poetry and metaphors are probably all made clear in the end, this happens in an overly preachy and bombastic sort of way. As a fierce atheist, I actually quite like bold agnosticism in a film, which is probably why I cared enough for the plot to see it through to the end (uncertainty of a higher being is held brilliantly throughout most of the series). But by the end I couldn't help but feel that the collective twelve hours I had spent watching the series had been a ploy to impose some kind of Faith on me. Hey, maybe I'm just interpreting the whole thing in a defensive way.
But what drove me to nonetheless give this series full marks and resolve to watch the whole thing again is really a deep respect for the creators: Brooke Burgess, Andrew West and Ian Kirby. These guys may hold a slightly different opinion to me on a spiritual level (I happened to agree with their politics, though), but they sure know how to argue their point. The sensory impact of "Broken Saints" is quite remarkable; the artwork and music cues (by Tobias Tinker, check him out on Myspace) are some of the most haunting and beautiful I have seen. The genius of this is that it keeps you interested long enough for other things to grab hold; empathy for the characters, intrigue into story development, and all that.
This is why, eventually, you never really hold much against a series like this. "Broken Saints" is a pretty broad web of appeal; if it loses your interest in one regard, it will catch it somewhere else. You don't like the alien culture of Shandala's Fijian islands and Oran's Saudi Arabian deserts then maybe Raimi's dark, post-modern America and filthy mouth will make you feel more at home. You don't like the preachy, new age gospel of the believers, then maybe you'll buy the more understated search for purpose; not necessarily God, just purpose. You don't like the politics, then just enjoy the art. You don't love the art, then respect the history of the project. In the end, whether you've been converted to a higher perception of life or just entertained for a few empty nights, the closing credits of "Broken Saints" will see you, however subconsciously, respecting one of the most finely argued contentions of artistic creation the world has ever seen. Word is Bond ;).
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