A Test of Wills (2009) – By Josh Samford

I think most audiences are intrigued by film that blur the lines between fantasy and reality. There’s something about the concept of having a straight narrative going, but mixing in the fictional world within our mundane lives. Although A Test of Wills doesn’t make this its only intention, it is certainly one of the more memorable accents to a very diverse and engaging story. A mix of dialogue heavy comedy with thick but realistic sounding dialogue. Imagine a one of Charlie Kauffman’s very meta-scripts but with David Mamet or Quentin Tarantino stylized dialogue layered over everything and you essentially have a taste for what the movie delivers. Not to say that A Test of Wills is going to blow you away quite like those previously mentioned filmmakers, but it proves to be a surprising and smart independent dramedy. Crafting a strong sense of satire throughout, the movie delivers through its witty dialogue and strong sense of cinematic rule bending. It has issues, like any independent film could have, but overall I think its one of the better comedies I have experienced from the market.

  Will is a dramatic writer slowly gearing up for middle-age. He is on the verge of celebrating his sixth year wedding anniversary, he is stuck in a dead-end construction job and is hopelessly facing writer’s block when it comes time to actually put something down on paper. The relationship he has developed with his wife couldn’t be more mundane. The two rarely ever have sex any more and Will instead finds himself looking up internet pornography. When he accidentally saves a file to his desktop one day, his wife finds the video and questions him about it. He denies it but finds that his wife doesn’t trust him and the two go back and forth over the issue. As they continue to bitterly argue, their relationship slowly begins to fade more and more. When Will takes a sick day from work, he decides to focus his attention on writing. However he soon finds that the human mind can run wild when the imagination is let loose. As he writes his play, which currently resembles the bitter dispute he is having with his wife, his characters begin to come to life around him. Arguing with him over his decisions, pointing out his own insecurities and his lack of back bone. Is Will going insane or will he survive this torment to be a stronger man?

  Writer/Star William Hahn is likely owed a great deal of credit in terms of the success that A Test of Wills achieves. The main attributes that help sell it had to have come from his end of the creative process. The spicy dialogue and the tricky narrative traps that he concocted in the screenplay are some of the more innovative musings I have seen in the independent film community. He strikes me as a talent who could very well go places. The foul mouthed dialogue, with its bizarre mixed usage of expletives, reminds me of the trinity of filmmakers who have perfected this craft: Kevin Smith, David Mamet and of course Quentin Tarantino. I am not saying the man is up to par with those filmmakers, as I have not seen more from him and who is to say what is improvised here and what isn’t, but the work certainly reminds me of that. There are times where the dialogue unfortunately falls short, such as the moments where Will and his friend Freddie go back and forth with one another, but when the film is firing on all cylinders it is impossible not to have a good time with this script. Hahn’s scenes with his wife and the various characters that he creates through his writing are all standouts. The bickering back and forth between characters and the strong presence of all actors involved helps sell this project to the nth degree.

  The moments between Will and his creations are all priceless for the general silliness of the situation but also for the human factor that it delivers on. We watch as Will actually goes through the creative process and also searches his own soul within the same instance. His play starts as a document of his own self-pity, but slowly transforms into an examination of his own self loathing and insecurities. The wife character Tori that he has created (who is played PERFECTLY by the beautiful Karen Slack) turns into a far worse version of what Will pictures his own wife as and who knows Will better than his own mind? So the pain she inflicts is far worse than anything anyone else could create. As we watch these characters do battle in the mental world, we lose contact with Will’s literal screenplay. Is he documenting all that is going on during these battles? Who is to say. The contents of this screenplay no longer matter as we soon figure out that Will’s problems are not with his wife but with his own self. The writing angle of the film is simply his therapy.

  A Test of Wills isn’t perfect, but I can’t say that I was ever bored with it at any moment. Generally the only thing I think some audiences will have a problem with is the lack of a large budget. Unfortunately true. The film doesn’t actually have the look of something that is cheap, but it is certainly a low budget feature. For any reader who has an open mind (and you’re reading Rogue Cinema so I assume you do), I certainly advise you to search this film out and keep your eyes open for these filmmakers. I have a feeling that they are going to be doing bigger and better things in just a short amount of time. To read more about A Test of Wills and to see the trailer check out

http://www.atestofwills.com

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