Baba’s Movie Reviews

‘Desert Vows’ – feature film; 1:49 minutes, produced by Wonderland Avenue Films in the direction of Michael Merell, and the production of Dunya Djordjevic, who also features in the lead female role as Hunter. Other female characters are Lena/Tristan Gribbin, Cat/Libby Lydecker, and Zoey/Julia Rose. The male characters are Ian(the fiance)/Jay Johnson,Steve(best man)/Treva Etienne, Mark(artist,miner,sage)Louis Waldon, and Rich(boss)/Nick Kiriazis

Desert Vows is a movie that offers a lot to the soul, to the eye, to the imagination and requires from the audience to do their own thinking, figuring out, weighing of conventional values against exceptional  solutions–solutions that may at first appear as strange but on deeper thought emerge as the only real ones. It is also a movie of vast spaces both outside the characters and inside their minds. However, space that is so vital to the meaning of this manifold story also becomes minute just to explode both in size and significance. This movie, unlike so many other ones I have seen lately, concentrates on action resulting not so much from squeezes and crises played out in the material world, but rather  from engagement of the mind, soul and imagination in ongoing search of the way that leads to happiness. And the gist of the story that evolves in the usual milieus of office spaces, underground garage spaces, apartment space, car interiors, and luxury hotel rooms as well as in the not so common scenery of the mountain-bordered desert and the redwood forest is the answer to the question of what it is that can vouch for happiness. In its many-layered synesis the story of this movie is also a fairytale, or at least it has elements of it. Unlike the traditional fairytale, though, that takes the challenged young couple through thick and thin just to bring them to the altar in the end with the promise of everlasting happiness, this tale is truer to life, or its heroine Hunter is smarter. For her and her finance the idea of marriage, as cherished as it may be, is just one stop on that lengthy road that each will have to pursue separately in order to achieve their separate happiness. Why must it be separate, the dissatisfied conventionally-minded onlooker might muse. The answer to this question, too, the director and the talented and outspoken actors divulge effortlessly.

Rich, Hunter’s boss, as also his name may suggest, is interested in smoothly undisturbed production rendered by his company. His hope is that nothing will get between him and his riches, certainly not the moral outcry of his art director, Hunter. He is encased in material values. The consciousnesses of two other characters Ian and Cat are likewise stuck in the realm of conventional thinking. Ian sees happiness in realization of the American dream. Cat idolizes luxuries that money can bring and pastimes at casino tables. The other characters may have more sensitive consciousnesses, but only Hunter has the guts to take the “less traveled road”–the road that will take her instead of to Las Vegas, the world’s capital of games and fun and to the altar to the heart of the  desert, where she discovers the hidden meaning of life and happiness.

To tell this intricate story the director makes use of visual effects, symbolic language, juxtaposition, colors and scenery. The movie opens with a dreamlike state from which Hunter’s character emerges. It suggests that this drama will be of the mind on both its levels, conscious and subconscious. Hunter makes sense of many hidden meanings in life through the images of birds used as symbols. She does not see eye to an eye with the road-runner that looks at her from her canvas, so she thinks it is time to return to her abandoned way of life. She, however, soon  witnesses a real miracle, when a dead bird snaps out of its stupor  and leads her to the mystical cave, or mine it is, where silver or gold gleam in subdued light. This brilliance is a symbol, too. There is no brighter light than the one that comes from mind’s realization of what makes life worth living.

To understand these messages the sensitive onlooker will have to make use of all these signs that the director assembled throughout the story to interpret the movie’s truly American message. In Thoreauvian vein this story, points the way to the living environment that feeds the spirit, which in turn in unison with the rest of living and growing things warrants happiness. Mark, the miner, Hunter’s guide at the outset of her quest knew it all. No wonder his name was Waldon a letter away from Walden. With a free mind the today’s audience may, through the efforts of this young director and  excellent actors, discover that the meaning of life is not so much in how much you have but how far or how deep you see.

Dunya Djordjevic in the lead role was a grand addition to the manifold joys this movie offers. Hunter’s awareness of life’s meaning that gradually sets in is accompanied by true rendering of so many conflicting emotions: love, happiness, uncertainty, rebellion, fear, loss and finally peace that comes with new realization. All these emotions ring true in her voice, facial expression and body language. Her appearance,  suggestive of intellectual depth and strength of mind was particularly a welcome commodity in the mix that shaped Hunter’s character.

The performance of actors and actresses is other parts was equally satisfying. Each of them created a believable character that one could recognize as one’s neighbor or coworker.

Thanks to the efforts of the director, actors and the music director this movie offers not only a high artistic experience but it also teaches some forgotten essentials that, if applied, could give more sweetness to life.

Oct 2009

Ksenija Antonovic

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