“The mysteries of life. The mystery of everyone who passes us on the street. What is happening in the lives of these people? Sometimes nothing. Perhaps something.”
Strangers walk by one another and might say “hello.” Other times, we glide by, silent and unaware, not knowing what plight others may be experiencing. An acknowledgment, a smile, it has importance. It could save a life, even. Perhaps an acknowledgment is all that someone needs.
It is also from the silences among strangers that stories come to us.
In writer/director Damian Lahey’s “Simple Like Silver” which came out last month, the unpredictability of life is explored through three characters at specific moments in their lives.
Angela (Susanna Nelson on camera, Lacy Marie Myer in voiceover) wakes up. She is far from home and without a clue as to where she is.
Confused and angry with herself, she’s been drugged and assaulted by a man she shouldn’t have trusted.
Lucia (the great Cristina Marsillach) has no husband nor children. In one of the film’s haunting lines she declares, “no legacy but my bones and the ghosts of what never was.”
Lucia is terminally ill and on a mental vacation, she takes stock of a life marked with unfulfilled dreams while trying her best to bring a little serenity to the time she has left.
There is a mystery here. Lucia may have seen a crime. Is it Angela? Was it a hallucination?
Best not to get stuck on the mystery part, as this was not Lahey’s intent. His is a film of intersections, connections and the flow of time.
As Angela and Lucia move through these pivotal moments in their lives, the paths between them begin to overlap, they become Antonioni-like frescoes of the human condition.
While Angela is in fear for her future (she worries that the man who drugged her will track her down), Lucia laments her past. Both are constantly moving, yet both experience their current surroundings differently. Still, the two are on a journey of self.
Joe (Hudson Sims), a young boy who is a writer wise beyond his years with the soul of a poet. His dialogues give breath to the meaning of the mutual connections between Angela, Lucia, and himself. All three will make an imprint on one another, even if it is not immediately clear to them as to why.
Joe’s youthful outlook and insights remind us of Linda Manz’s earnest and ambitious narratives for Terence Malick’s “Days of Heaven.” As Manz did in “Days,” Joe gives symmetry to the film’s trio of wandering souls. It is a wonderfully designed and acted character.
Lahey’s black and white photography is gorgeous. His camera is fluid and almost constantly in motion as are the lives and minds of the film’s characters.
Director Lahey uses every inch of his frame to encompass a dream-like canvas that holds profound imagery and captures the sun-tinted clouds that dominate the sky, much like how Vilmos Zsigmond did when creating his breathtaking widescreen skies for “Heaven’s Gate” (dir. Michael Cimino).
One item of note, Lahey shot and cut the film himself but he gave screen credit to his friends Alex Hornung (cinematography) and Scott Allen (editing), who died young.
David Wingo’s score adds to the meditative mood of Lahey’s film. It breathes over the frame, standing just behind the characters like an ambient troubadour of mood and emotion.
Wingo’s music recalls Neil Young’s composition for Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man” and Ry Cooder’s original soundtrack for “Paris, Texas.” All three have that melancoly quality that tends to reach deep within the consciousness.
Damian Lahey’s “Simple Like Silver” is a poetic and moving film that walks an artful path of hypnotic reflection.
As Joe quotes Margaret Atwood, “In the end, we all become stories.” All of us have a tale to tell. Some sad, some dangerous, some peaceful; there will always be someone interested in our tale, and we will sometimes meet people who can make our paths a bit clearer.
Humans make mistakes. They sometimes let their life get away from them. But we all have a verse inside, an inner poem. It is what gives us our beauty and our breath, what helps to form a connection, and I connected on a profound level with this film.