One of the many issues with modern films is how they do not strive to be cinematic enough. Few filmmakers today take their time to properly design shots, use their frame in uniquely meaningful ways, and craft profoundly artful moments where the camera is both the artist and the tool.
Daniel Kremer’s “Overwhelm the Sky” is a most welcome film that’s cinema to its very core.
Alexander Hero stars as Edgar, a radio host who comes to San Francisco to be near his fiancé Thea and take over a late-night show for his good friend Dean.
Thea is the sister of his best friend Neil, who has been murdered in what police concluded was a mugging that ended badly.
Many nights, Edgar takes walks through Golden Gate Park, to the place where his friend was murdered. It almost seems a personal pilgrimage, one of necessity.
On an evening, Edgar meets a man at the place of Neil’s murder. The man is a drifter, and the introduction of this character will take the film on a surrealistic path of murder-mystery.
Also entering Edgar’s life is a therapist named Maggie, who helps him to solve the mystery. Maggie has a friend named Daria, who saw Neil’s body the day he died. Since all these people have entered Edgar’s life, Edgar begins to wake up with unexplained marks, dotting his body from time to time.
The plot thickens. The mystery grows. But this is no standard thriller. “Sky” is a challenging film, it’s for the mind. It asks many questions but reveals little. Kremer’s work here gifts us with the kind of movie that modern moviegoers rarely witness: a film with ideas.
Kremer crafted this ambitious piece on a small budget but achieves something that’s aurally and visually arresting. The screenplay (by Alexander Hero, Aaron Hollander, and director Kremer) updates Charles Brockden Brown’s 1799 novel “Edgar Huntly, or Memoirs of a Sleepwalker,” bringing it to California modern-day.
In watching this film, I was taken back to the style and substance of certain films by Antonioni where the frame is vast and representations of the human condition can be found in every pan and camera movement.
Kremer and his cinematographer Aaron Hollander’s compositions are striking. The film was shot in black and white, infusing the film with a Noir quality but not aping the genre.
The cinematography brings an uneasy mood to scenes of Edgar’s visions that may or may not be dreams. As the film gradually unspools its clues to the truth behind Neil’s death, Charles Thackeray’s editing pieces it all together smoothly, and kept me unnerved yet focused.
As Edgar keeps returning to the spot of his friend’s murder, it becomes clear that connections are an important theme of this film. Connection to self and to place. It is a subtext that runs through the film and is made clear by the actions of a few characters, including a well-done moment between Edgar and a Native American woman. It is a beautifully written sequence and I urge you to pay close attention to it.
“Overwhelming the Sky” is ambitious. Daniel Kremer’s film is about a complicated man who does not inhabit easily the world. It is structured to unravel hints and clues that may never be fully revealed but all are important to the narrative. This is character study and mystery, and its themes can be felt in the random conversations of certain characters and passersby.
Kremer’s film is a calm work that flows organically. Engrossing as much as demanding, this is supremely confident filmmaking. “Overwhelming the Sky” is a great work.