Sunday, June 04, 2006

Eye of God


Dir: Tim Blake Nelson (The Grey Zone)

The second Nelson film that I have seen, this his directorial debut. Like The Grey Zone, Eye of God is brutally honest about its subject matter, unrelenting in its dedication to the story without artifice or sugar coating. Nelson clearly has a gift for writing, his work more theatrical than anything else. His is a genuine talent, and this film is well worth your time.

In rural Oklahoma, we learn in disjointed time the circumstances of a murder. Tommy Spencer (Nick Stahl) finds the body, and we learn this young man's story at the same time as we follow the marriage of Ainsley (Martha Plimpton) to Jack (Kevin Anderson) a born again ex-con. The two narratives develop along their own course until they come together in the film's climactic moments. Nothing about Eye of God is very suprising, the essentials of the plot can be guessed in the first 20 miunutes. It is in the eye for detail that Nelson brings to the script that the film becomes intriguing. These stories are well worn, the themes as old as stories themselves; but there is a vision in this film that makes it gripping. The idea that beneath a sleepy conservative town lurks evil and despair is nothing new, but this film is fresh.

The film is a bit too cute at times, with the poetic voice over thing and the broken chonology sometimes becoming a distraction. But I am rather a purist with such things. For the most part, the technique of the thing enhances the tension as we try to piece together the plot from fragments, only occasionaly overwhelming the story. And when you have a story this compelling, I find the less artifice the better. A much better directorial decision is the omission of any resolution or explanation to key details of the killing, spurring some interesting conjecture after the film from my viewing companion as to exactly what happened. Nelson has chosen to focus on the motivations for the characters, not the ins-and-outs of how those were manifested. Our minds fill in details that are more shocking than what could have been shown.

A solid effort across the board, an opening salvo from a writer/director with a real vision. I recommend the film strongly.