4.5 Stars
Year Released: 2014
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 12 minutes
Click to Expand Credits:

I like to see films that are weird and artistic for a very specific reason: Because the surrealism makes it impossible for me to understand what I’m watching, and for someone like me who’s seen about nine hundred trillion billion million movies, this can be very refreshing. There’s just something about being in the dark that appeals to me. I don’t want to always know what’s going to happen. I don’t mean spoilers either. I could care less about them. I just mean that most movies telegraph their plot before they finish with the credit sequence. So all I have left is to watch what happens with this grim expectation. It’s a bit dispiriting.

Real Ethereal looks as if it all takes place on an alien planet during an alien religious ceremony that follows an alien logic, and I fell in love with it immediately. I mean, how could I not? I’m so well versed in the clichés and tropes of modern cinema that all but a handful of films that I see hold any mystery for me. Real Ethereal is one of them. It’s just madness from start to finish. It follows some degree of logic, but fucked if I can tell what it is.

It made me so happy.

I mean it. I really do. It’s marvelously bonkers. I can, at best, make a list of “stuff” that happen, but there’s little way for me to make heads or tail of the plot. A bizarre creature walks out of the ocean and onto the beach, and then… well, you have to see it to believe it.

Real Ethereal is the sort of film I like to show aspiring filmmakers who worry that they need to spend ungodly amounts of money to impress critics. Because the entire set design, other than the beach at the beginning, seems to have been created out of cotton balls, Q-tips, white faux fur, string, paper napkins, toilet paper, those conical cups you use at a water cooler, and more cotton balls. Seriously, the cotton ball budget on this thing must have been huge! Funds well spent, may I add.

Yet, the film never ever looks cheap, not once do you see any of its tricks show. It looks as complex and intricate and inventive as anything that could have been created through CGI or animation. It’s just a burst of images and madness that feels like a fever dream.

Much praise must be given to the sound design as well. It’s an essential part of any film, but it’s doubly important when making a surreal film. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ethereal spent more money on its sound than anything else. The soundscapes are certainly quite excellent, never tiring your ear, never boring you, never calling attention to itself unless it wants to, always adding to the images on screen. It’s what sound design should be, and too often isn’t.

There’s a bit of a David Lynch influence in general, nothing too overt, just an awareness of the man’s work – except for one scene which is a very specific homage/parody of Blue Velvet. This was the only downside for me. Even though the “Lynch” scene doesn’t feel forced or exploitative, it does show a bit of insecurity on the part of the filmmakers. They really shouldn’t try so hard. They’ve done a great job and don’t need to emulate anyone. If anything, other people should emulate them.

Posted on January 24, 2014 in Reviews by

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One Comment on "REAL ETHEREAL"

  1. Chuck Anziulewicz on Mon, 27th Jan 2014 10:44 am 

    Quite a remarkable little film. And anyone who is interested can now watch it on Vimeo:

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