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Franklin: A Symphony of Pain (2015)

Not Rated | | Drama , Thriller | 11 January 2015 (USA)
Franklin is a tormented man who seeks asylum in the arms of Mother Earth. His serenity is shattered by two masked men that violently subdue and abduct him. Awakening in captivity, he realizes his bizarre nightmarish journey has just begun.


Jeremy Westrate

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nikolas Franklin Nikolas Franklin ... Franklin
Greg G. Freeman Greg G. Freeman ... Father Hyde Pearcy
Slake Counts ... Lord Balthazar / Pastor Thomas
Dee Dee Seruga Dee Dee Seruga ... Her
Jules Sceiro Jules Sceiro ... Willie Maybach
Bob Glazier Bob Glazier ... Bill
Asana Katiny Asana Katiny ... Apple
Angel Martin Angel Martin ... Fernando Peters
Amethist Young Amethist Young ... Emily
Sean Donohue Sean Donohue ... Monkey / Frog-Brother Mike / Baptist Audience Member
Richard R. Anasky Richard R. Anasky ... Skull Man / Brass Knuckles / Turtle- David W. Hughes
Tommy Sosko Tommy Sosko ... Pilot
Toby Crisp Toby Crisp ... Johnny Blade
Jason Henne Jason Henne ... Bobby
Jay Ingle Jay Ingle ... Commander Brandr


Franklin is a tormented man who seeks asylum in the arms of Mother Earth. His serenity is shattered by two masked men that violently subdue and abduct him. Awakening in captivity, he realizes his bizarre nightmarish journey has just begun.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Mind is a Beautiful thing to Waste


Drama | Thriller


Not Rated


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Release Date:

11 January 2015 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Florida, USA See more »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital


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Willie Maybach: Running right where I was gonna bring ya, you bright f***.
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Ola Sjöberg - Demon Rangler See more »

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User Reviews

Sonata of the Damned
17 February 2015 | by sober_gaijinSee all my reviews

A good friend of mine, when faced with his own mortality, once said, "To face the infinite requires profound sobriety, endless patience, and guts of steel." The same conditions must be met when facing FRANKLIN: A SYMPHONY OF PAIN, an unsettling cinematic masterpiece that one does not so much watch as endure. Directed by Jeremy Westrate, who also co- wrote the script with Richard R. Anasky and Sean Donohue, FRANKLIN takes the audience past the Ninth Circle of the Abyss, bludgeoning the consciousness until one is forced to read cinema as if learning a new language. High praise but also solemn caveat--FRANKLIN is not for the silly and the ignorant. You will need a robust digestion and an even more robust spirit.

FRANKLIN follows the nightmare of its titular character (Nikolas Franklin), who in the film's opening reel is accosted in a public restroom by a pair of masked thugs. After being rendered unconscious, Franklin awakens bound and bleeding as a trio of "handlers"--two men and one women--torment and torture him, culminating in Franklin being sodomized with a jagged wooden implement. After a failed escape attempt Franklin awakens in a dumpster, seemingly free from his captors … but the nightmare has only just begun. What ensues is Franklin's own series of unfortunate events as he wanders through a concatenation of fresh hells with seemingly no end in sight. Interspersed throughout this journey is a meta-narrative in which Franklin recounts his nightmare to the bullish Father Hyde Pearcy (Greg G. Freeman), who may have ulterior motives for walking Franklin through this "therapy."

FRANKLIN is not an easy experience. The barrage of tortures is as horrifying as anything you'll see in Japan's infamous GUINEA PIG series. The disjointed narrative and relentless shift in style are difficult to follow (I was reminded of Stone's NATURAL BORN KILLERS). The crazed retro cinematography, incessantly textured with psychedelic overlays reminiscent of Bran Ferren's paint splatter light show in ALTERED STATES, is distracting and almost seizure- inducing. Yet despite being difficult to watch, the film is nevertheless quite watchable. Its nonlinearity, while frustrating, is perhaps its saving grace: by never allowing us to fully sympathize with Franklin we never get too close to the nightmare and are instead forced to decode the troublesome narrative.

Deep into this landscape, it becomes apparent what we are witnessing is Franklin's torture-induced dream. Layer by layer, Franklin's identity is flayed before the viewer's eyes. Sodomy is an affront to his masculinity (a theme explored in Boorman's DELIVERANCE). After his alleged "escape," thugs destroy his driver's license (his identity) and a photo of his wife (the feminine energy, which "civilizes" man according to John Ford's westerns). Franklin's face, man's discernibly "human" feature, is disfigured with acid. He loses one of his eyes, the "window to the soul." He projects cultural influences onto his memories, establishing one particularly traumatic experience as a 1960s black-and-white sitcom (another NBK homage). He revises episodes in his head so that we, the audience, witness them multiple times with different outcomes. Just when we think we have a handle on his story, our perspective shifts, following the misadventures of the bizarre masked "handlers" who plague him.

There are hints of a method to this madness, and we begin to suspect that Father Hyde Pearcy is the architect of Franklin's suffering, a point further clarified by the film's "Prologue," which occurs at the end of the film. A post-credit quote makes vague reference to the CIA's Project MKUltra in which test subjects were subjected to psychedelics and torture to "promote illogical thinking and impulsiveness" (a droning computerized voice of the film's many hallucinogenic sequences further alludes to this). Even if you're unfamiliar with MKUltra (as I was), the film can still be appreciated on its own terms (much the same way one can appreciate PINK FLOYD THE WALL without knowing anything about Roger Waters or Syd Barrett). I was reminded of the internet urban myth that suggests victims of torture often recreate a seemingly "normal" alternate reality to escape their anguish … suggesting that the reality you currently experience could be a torture-induced dream (creepy stuff).

If this is indeed the case, then FRANKLIN takes us on a journey through those realities, and it does so with great aplomb. The script is a messy mosaic of horrors that manages to create a unified whole like Seurat's pixilated dots. Westrate's direction of this material is assured, and actor Nikolas Franklin, taking on a role usually relegated to women in torture porn, delivers one of the most fearless performances I have seen in a while (think Helen Buday in ALEXANDRIA'S PROJECT or Monica Bellucci in IRREVERSIBLE).

If it seems I am referencing too many other well-known films, it's because thematically FRANKLIN is something of a pastiche. As a work of art, it has an odd self-awareness, personified in the character of Fernando (Angel Martin), a grinning hippie who often appears with camera in hand, videotaping the torture. It is during these scenes that the point of view will often shift the most, at times putting us inside Fernando's camera, making us complicit with Franklin's tormentors (okay, okay, I'll eschew the reference to the opera glasses in SALÓ). This allows the film's reality to constantly be destroyed and reborn, to write its own rules. Late in the film, when Father Hyde bellows "I'm the one who controls what goes on in your reality!" the film shifts to a series of surrealistic moving snapshots (Franklin's fading memories?), each separate from the other by the scratchy static of a TV changing channels. Could television, what Harlan Ellison calls the "glass teat," be our own "handler" controlling our minds?

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