Gerry review

:. Director: Gus Van Sant
:. Starring: Matt Damon, Casey Affleck
:. Running Time: 1:34
:. Year: 2002
:. Country: USA

Based on a news story that occurred in the California desert a few years ago, Gus Van Sant's film follows the follows the wanderings of Gerry (a solid Matt Damon) and Gerry (Casey Affleck), two urbanites (most likely Angelinos) who, during an excursion in the desert, get lost in the vastness of this arid and majestic landscape.

From the first images, the filmmaker sets the tone: a long silent sequence introduces us to the two characters, passive figures sitting in a car, whereas the road, sometimes sinuous, sometimes rangy spreads out to infinity, some bare piano notes filling this apparent void with their echo. The two men then step onto this lunar landscape bathed in saturated light and strut into adventure. With their very L.A. get up and a can of Coke as their only equipment, straight away they recall those people in the news who set off to conquer mountains wearing shorts and sneakers and are seen repatriated in the evening by helicopter. Leaving the path to take a shortcut, they are inevitably lost and end up wandering in the desert for three days without water nor food.

From dry ravines to steep rocks and long stretches of sand, Gerry and Gerry survey the desert, confronting their own loneliness while Van Sant's camera openly embraces this landscape scorched with such rough beauty. The shots are posed, languorous, rejecting any cinematic artifice to create a diaphanous painting, a "living" still life that man cannot overcome. A hypnotic and solemn piano accompanies everything, drowning out the scattered dialogues. Van Sant, a director anchored in American culture, probably offers his most universal film with Gerry, a naturalist work purged to the extreme where man is only one negligible detail in the scenery that swallows him up. The slowness and importance given to nature returns to a simple but existentialist cinema like that of Andrei Tarkovski with Solaris as well as Bela Tarr (Werckmeister Harmonies) and Abbas Kiarostami (Ten). After the clinical homage to Hitchcock (Psycho), the film maker rids himself of any technical and narrative yoke to greet the influence of another school, that of the Old Continent.

Like some of his colleagues, Paul Verhoven and Brian De Palma most recently with Femme Fatale, Van Sant has the form reflect the content and vice versa. Like the image of the desert, his film is arid but of an ethereal beauty, filled with loneliness and a languor that is lost in its infinite horizon. His film roams around and goes nowhere, just like his "heroes". The destination of both Gerries and their backgrounds are of no importance. It is their experience that counts and he wants us to share it by opting for a slow rhythm, a narrative stripped of all screenwriting tricks and simple, repetitive and sometimes very creative shots—as that of their two faces superimposed during a cadenced walk.

Stated in many ways, "Gerry" means idiotic. The film does not spare these insipid and rather stupid characters. As unorganized as they are uninformed about the mysteries of nature, these "urban conquerors" quickly encounter physical and psychological forces too strong for them. Gerry Affleck, clad in black and very "rock n roll" for an excursion, wears a star on his t-shirt which, as a celestial symbol of direction or position on a map, seems to taunt him all the more since he's lost in the middle of nowhere. Although nothing about these two characters is known, a homosexual tension seems to penetrate, as Gerry Damon comes off as the virile man while Gerry Affleck is more feminine. Having become a burden, the latter will drive his buddy to the edge in an ultimate survivalist act mixed with shame but also with compassion. The correlated names of the characters, like those of the actors so often associated in life (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Casey's brother), bring an additional dimension, overflowing onto reality in an amusing wink.

By going off the beaten path to get lost, Van Sant found a source.

  Fred Thom

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