REVIEW BY BEN MUDEK

Elliot is a bizarre low budget feature film, and I will be honest, at first I didn’t know what to make of this strange bit of cinema. Is it the future? Is it a parallel dimension? A micro-world? The website’s description tells of Elliot as “a lonely maintenance worker inside a stark and mysterious power supply complex.” A power complex for what? The movie is rather vague on the particulars, but in the end it doesn’t really matter – since the story is clearly an allegory meant to explore the human condition. Like most allegories, the literal interpretation doesn’t matter so much as what it is trying to tell us. For some reason I imagined this taking place inside the body of a gigantic cyborg entity – but that’s just me. You can make of it what you will.

The costumes and the set design are brilliant. I love the surreal feel, both technologic and organic. It was shot entirely on VHS, which at first might sound like a simple gimmick, but it quickly became clear that the director was interested in a certain visual style. The VHS certainly provides that. I especially loved the abstract intermissions of color and sound, which for me, brought to mind the more abstract aspects of Kubrick’s 2001, or the films of Stan Brakhage.

While VHS does have the drawback of low resolution – the blurry low resolution makes it hard to decipher exactly what is going on sometimes in a given shot or scene. That onus may fall more directly on viewer, however, as used to as we are of the modern HD standards of today. What it does do is contribute to the impression of a shifting, technology-inspired world, and the hazy frame of mind that I imagined Elliot must be in for the bulk of this film.

To quote the film’s website: “When Elliot does have a rare moment alone, he plugs into his pod and escapes into another world as an idealized version of himself. The more he explores this alternate universe, the more he desires it, and consequentially, the less he trusts his own reality. As his mind deteriorates from the stress of his job combined with his belief that an artificial world may actually exist”

The over all story and intent is apparent and clear. Elliot seems to be a metaphor for the situation many people are living in today. Forced to work a job they don’t enjoy, controlled and manipulated by a power structure that they do not understand, have no immediate contact with, and have no control over. Day after day they do their job, they know not why. Their only relief is to get lost in the virtual worlds of social media, movies, tv, video games, or whatever distractions take their own particular center stage. Elliot’s only meaningful connection with another person is in the virtual world, and that person may or may not even be real.

The one problem I have with the film lies with the central and titular character of the piece. Elliot seems like such a pathetic loser that it is hard to empathize or identify with him. He constantly whines and whimpers his way throughout the movie, which after a while started to annoy me. He does his job, loses himself on the VR internet, gets interrupted and told to do another job. He does it without question. Other entities lurk around, scoffing at him and tormenting him. Not once does he question what he is doing, or why he is there. Not once does he even attempt to fight back, to run away, or to try to change his situation. He just wanders around, always reacting and never acting. He seems to lack all ability to communicate with the real people he encounters.

But maybe that is the whole point. As a metaphor, that aspect of Elliot’s character is rather brilliant (albeit annoying). It points out the very situation that many people find themselves in today. Almost nobody seems to have the wherewithal to question it – to try to make a change or to even acknowledge that a change needs to be made.

RANK: B- / 3 Out Of 5 

Check out http://www.elliotthemovie.com for more info on this unique movie.

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