Ginger Nuts of Horror
There seems to be a propensity among film companies, distributors and packaging artists to misrepresent films as being other than what they are. I've noticed this a lot, in particular, with Metrodome's releases of Asian films such as Painted Skin or The Founding Of A Republic. Most recently, I've noticed this disparity with the film A Walk Among The Tombstones; a film which is in all aspects marketed as a non-stop action thriller when in reality, it is a dark, brooding thriller with little action but plenty of mood and storyline. I suspect these things are done to lure an audience that otherwise would never pick up these films, but the fallout is that people will dislike a film when they were expecting something else, while others will avoid something they may actually have liked. Strange.
Anyway, all this brings me to the film Frequencies (apparently also known as OXV: The Manual, for reasons that would be clear to those who have seen it), a film which has one of the most incompatible DVD covers I've seen in a long time. Basically, it indicates that what is inside is a special effects laden YA thriller in the vein of, say, The Maze Runner or...I don't know, Insurgents; something like that. And this film couldn't be further from that kind of movie.
What it is, is...very difficult for me to describe. The synopsis is basically this: Zak and Marie live on an Earth almost identical to ours in every aspect except that from about the age of 11/12, children are tested for their 'frequency'. This informs what sort of path the individual can and should follow. Low frequency means that the child will have bad luck, bad timing, misfortune; high frequency means they will always be in the right place at the right time and will always fulfil their potential. Essentially, the universe 'favours' the higher frequencies and 'dislikes' the lower. Marie (I won't give the full names of the characters as this is one of the lovely touches the film has) is ultra high, the highest, but as a side effect, she has zero emotion. Zak is low frequency, and is a stumbling, bumbling bag of bad luck; yet he is filled with empathy. Ordinarily, these two would never meet, being complete polar opposites, yet for some reason they can spend exactly one minute in each other's company once a year before the universe reasserts the order with a vengeance. Marie uses these moments to conduct an experiment only she knows the purpose of; Zak uses them to fall more and more in love with her, pursuing a seemingly pointless course of action due to his desire. When Marie rebuffs him in no uncertain terms, he elects a course of action that may have consequences that reach far beyond the both of them...dire, world shattering consequences...
Or maybe not. There I go, misrepresenting the film. Or am I? You see, it's very difficult to discuss this film without ruining some of its magic. Like, say, Triangle, Coherence or Primer, much of the joy in Frequencies comes from knowing absolutely nothing about it beforehand and then putting the pieces together before reaching the end with a desire to watch all over again. What I can say is that, contrary to the cover design of the DVD, there no special effects whatsoever in this film. It's entirely dialogue and character driven. In fact, it has all the production value of a UK TV show. It feels more like a play, like a theatre production. That is not a criticism, it's simply a reflection of the budget. But what is missing in terms of production spend is more than made up for by the twisting, mind-messing story. It's a film about patterns (reflected in the way the story unfolds), about class systems, about predestination and free will, about love, about control, about bigotry, about...well, it's about a great many things. Some of which require huge leaps of faith on the part of its internal universe. There's an undercurrent of darkness here as well, a hint of dystopia, of fascism masquerading as 'the greater good'. It's one of those films where you just have to go with it, allow it to reach out and meet you halfway; it requires some effort on the part of the viewer and if you're one of those people who need everything spoon-fed to you, you probably won't like this. But being a film that's about ideas and concepts as much as it is about what's happening on screen, there's a smidgeon of irony there.
The acting is fine, if a little cold in places (but this is entirely in keeping with the idea that Marie cannot feel emotion) and there's a distinct quirkiness to the proceedings. Yet its sense of coldness and reserve is undercut by a distinct sweetness, that never overwhelms the story.
In a an era when most big blockbuster science fiction films are more about the spectacle than the substance (though still entertaining in their way), it's to the small, independents that we need to look for films that have big ideas, big concepts in small, modest surroundings. And that's to be admired and supported.