Much like there seems to be an inordinate number of William Hurt films in the 80s, there also seems to be a surprising amount of Stellan Skarsgard films in the 90s. I guess 2000 is close enough, so Signs & Wonders is certainly one of those films. This is another one that seems to have inexplicably made the list. Directed by Jonathan Nossiter, this deeply mental film about the trials and tribulations that can be caused by an extra-marital affair is surprisingly prescient, and in that way it becomes rather intriguing, especially given the way the film sets itself up. Of course, one should be careful of the way a film like this sets itself up, as one may lose their way more often than they find it.
This is another one that I wouldn’t have had much of an idea of what was going on were it not for the Wikipedia article. Not that this is deliberately vague or confusing, but rather that it skips around its narrative, without any of the interlocking pieces that makes a narrative straightforward. Near the beginning, the film jumps six months into the future; a short while later, the main character has moved back to America from his family in Greece. I would not have known either of these two things had happened if it weren’t for the Wikipedia article telling me so, and I shouldn’t need a Cliff’s Notes or a manual to refer to whenever the film slips itself up, which was often. Not to mention the cinematography; to be honest, the film isn’t shot very well at all. It’s fuzzy, and the colors seem washed out, as if they didn’t really know how to expose the images to film properly. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the film was (actually, one of the first bigger budget films) shot digitally, and then blown up to 35mm film, so all of the imperfections I noticed along the way were digitally and intentionally added in the transfer. That sort of thing kinda bugged me; I can understand if it was for a stylistic choice or whatever to alter the film’s look in post-production, but to actually and purposefully make the film look badly shot? I think it was their intention to give the film a retro feel, and they simply went a little excessive with the treatment.
It’s a real shame, too, because what I could glean about the story was very interesting, and the presentation style made it even more so. The film took a psychological drama approach to the film, and the story, while pretty basic when you get all the pieces in the right order, managed to be that much more intriguing because of it. It made me wonder a lot, about what was going to happen, and the adverse visual and sound effects successfully put me on edge through most of the film. I just couldn’t keep the story straight without having my hand held throughout the whole thing, and I shouldn’t need that to enjoy a film, unless it goes the complete obfuscating route of Memento, in which case I might need some clarification before diving into such an experience. So, to that end, consider this me giving you some clarification; this film will unintentionally confuse you, but as long as you’re prepared for it, and know how to fill in the blanks (even if you don’t see them coming), it shouldn’t impact your enjoyment of the film too much. At least, I can only hope so.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10