Redland: Grim Survival in the Great Depression

This dark, hallucinatory fable begins and climaxes with two of the most audacious sex-meets-death set-pieces in recent indie-movie memory. What's even more daring: First-time director Asiel Norton decided to shoot this starless, elliptical, defiantly mythic feature on 35mm, with heavy filtration and apparently no light not natural to its setting, the shanty of a dirt-poor family in Depression-era rural Northern California. The resulting look—sometimes barely emerging from the celluloid grain, often toned in sepia or moonlight blue—resembles a flickering, psychedelic daguerreotype; it's unlike anything I've ever seen before. A disorienting daze of perspectives, with a soundtrack drone often subbing for dialogue, Redland sometimes seems to constitute the merged daydreams and ever-tenuous reality of Mary-Ann (Lucy Adden), a naive teenage beauty attempting to hide an affair from her family as starvation and isolation drive them all closer to madness and the brink of death. When Mary-Ann's secret boyfriend (Toben Seymour) joins her father and brother on a last-ditch hunt for food, Norton scrambles the p.o.v. even further: One character's fantasies become another's paranoid visions within a collective nightmare. The depraved, desperation-trumps-morality, circle-of-life denouement is foreshadowed a little too heavily from the beginning, but with its hypnotic, singular aesthetic, Redland still casts a spell that's hard to shake.

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