Two months ago I wrote about an obscure independent film that looked like it would push all my buttons. From Vent #455:

Enter, stage right, or perhaps from left field, actor/writer/director Alex P. Baack, who in 2001 shot a motion picture that seems literally aimed right at my head. Untitled: A Love Story, released in 2003 and to my knowledge never screened in this part of the world, is the tale of a fellow (played by Baack) who embarks on a relationship with an invisible woman (voiced by Heather Aldridge). I have yet to see this film. However, the trailer and three clips are available in QuickTime on Baack's production-company site, and after watching these eight minutes of excerpts — the film runs 80 minutes total — I am convinced that quite unintentionally, Baack has made a movie that could just as easily have been about me.

I wrote to Mr. Baack, expressing interest and pointing him to the piece I'd written, and asking if the film could be seen on tape or DVD, since screenings seemed unlikely in this part of the world. I'm afraid I came off rather like a geeky fanboy looking for a special-effects fest, but I'll get over it. I sent the nominal fee requested; last night the DVD arrived.

And for the most part, I was right: there's way too much in this film that looks like it could have happened to me. The Guy (that's all the name he gets) is incredibly unsure of himself, hasn't had any relationships worthy of the name since college, and for the life of him, he can't understand why anyone would be the slightest bit interested in him, let alone someone with this much obvious love of life.

Yet the Guy has things going for him. He's well-read, though he doesn't consider himself so: if you ask him, he doesn't think of the hundreds of books he's read, but the thousands he hasn't. He's apparently talented at the Horizontal Olympics: when he fantasizes, he explains, he has to play both parts, which presumably gives him a distinct advantage. And he can discourse on just about any topic you bring up, given enough of a nudge. (With the presumed exception of "apparently talented," this is exactly like me.)

She brings out the best in him, and simultaneously, she brings out the worst: he has been so guarded, so isolated, for so long, that he's forgotten (if he ever knew) how to trust anyone. She wants to meet his father; he puts her off; one day she secretly follows him on a visit; he explodes.

The lesson is hard, as lessons always are, but eventually he realizes that when she left him, she left him with a lovely parting gift: freedom from the fears that had always haunted him before.

The two leads here have difficult tasks: he has to respond to someone who isn't really in the frame, and she has to express things solely with her voice. Both succeed admirably, though it's pretty clear that there wasn't a whole lot of time for retakes. (The entire 80 minutes of screenage cost a stunningly insignificant $9,000.) And yeah, there are special effects — she is invisible, after all — but that's not what this film is about. It is, after all, set in New York City, one of the few places on earth that qualifies as a special effect in its own right.

A larger production company has optioned this story and presumably will shoot a version of it on something resembling a real movie budget. The finished product might be somewhat slicker, perhaps a bit more "commercial," but I doubt it will speak to me any more clearly.

The Vent

#463
  1 December 2005

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