When I first watched “For The Plasma,” co-directed and co-edited by Kyle Mozlan and Bingham Bryant (who also wrote the script and produced) at 2014 BAMcinemaFest, I was entranced, if unable to wholly grasp the proceedings. But I was held by the mood–the beauty of the images (shot in 16mm by Chris Messina), the often perfect incongruousness of Keiichi Suzuki’s electronic score, the stylized performances and the potential diversions into genre (horror, sci fi).
I saw affinities with Shane Carruth’s “Upstream Color” but I was set straight during my shoot with Bingham and Kyle, who said their inspiration was Eric Rohmer. OK.
On second viewing of the film, a few days ago, this information worked as a key: Rohmer’s characters transplanted across the Atlantic (and into the 21st century digital world of omnipresent surveillance, CCTV, computer screens and cellphones–here with peculiarly good rural reception) for an examination of looking, seeing, solitude, collaboration, meaning and female friendship (and its discontents).
Helen (Rosalie Lowe), young, lithe blonde woman #1, has a profound, almost mystical relationship with information and has been able to transform watching the CCTV feeds of a nearby forest in Maine into a lucrative system for predicting financial markets. But when the woodland images on her array of screens are out of alignment with a larger reality of her own (and of unknown origin), she sends her assistant Charlie (Annabelle LeMieux), young lithe blonde woman #2 (who acts as if she’s a cranky Alice newly arrived in Wonderland), to the evergreens, hardwoods and ferns to report from the field.
The two work and live in a lovely rambling clapboard and shingled house set on idyllic and seemingly remote grounds. There is unspecified tension between them. Charlie hears things go bump in the night and during a nocturnal power cut, a man enters the house, lighting his face from below with a flashlight (like an easy monster effect), to investigate reported screams.
“Don’t shoot,” he jokes and introduces himself as Herbert, the keeper of the nearby lighthouse. A dead ringer for the future version of Tim Blake Nelson, he’s a winker, which grafts a bit of comedy onto his (possibly wholly imagined) facts and stories.
Time passes (mostly observable by the women’s outfits) and a pattern of observing, inertia and exploratory trips develops, which is suddenly broken as Helen hastily abandons the forest and the markets for the heavens, making her escape with Herbert on his sailboat.
“For the Plasma” will open on Thursday, July 21 at Anthology Film Archives for a one-week run. On July 21 and Friday, July 22 there will be a Q&A with Bingham Bryant following the 7:00 pm screenings and he will intro the 9:15 pm shows. The film will expand nationally on Friday, July 29, followed by a limited-edition Blu-ray and vinyl LP set of the film and its original score.