I am a purveyor of all things challenging, especially in the world of cinema. I keep up with the most out-there, obscure and disturbing content that the film world produces and I am rarely surprised anymore. Normally, disturbing content can be seen coming from a mile off. The hype trains that develop around titles such as Philosophy of a Knife and Serbian Film ultimately end up killing any shock that these films hoped to achieve with many modern audiences. When we finally have a chance to actually watch these movies, after a year worth of hype, we can almost keep up with the checks and balances as they teeter along. Seeking Wellness is a film that caught me by surprise. Aloof in its advertising, if you head on over to <a href="http://www.seeking-wellness.com" target="_blank">Seeking-Wellness.com</a> you’ll probably walk away pretty puzzled. What kind of movie is this? Is it a movie? Is it a web series? Who is to say. The website itself can be seen as pretty disturbing, by its use of mundane and horrifying imagery mixed with its very obscure content, but this is just the start of a journey into abstract and challenging cinema. As the opening credits tell you, this is not a film. This is a video ritual. Watch and receive.
If you’re going to categorize Seeking Wellness, it is best described as an anthology of four short films in a ninety minute package. The first is Cup of Friendship, Shrine of Scars which shows a brutal home-invasion style scenario that takes place at a doctor’s office from the vantage point of a series of flipping security cameras. The second short is Daddy’s Time, which follows a recently divorced father’s bizarre gathering with his two children. As he contemplates suicide and mentally tortures his children, we see him fall apart more and more. The third short is Malignant Love which follows a man around in documentary style format as he attempts to grow cancer by eating all manners of poison and exposing himself to near-lethal amounts of radiation. The finale is Final Project which focuses on an exceedingly disturbed final thesis presentation in a college psychology class. These shorts are all tied together through various segments that blend each story together and have white lettering pop up that tells you when the new segments have officially begun.
Although it has its weaknesses, I have to commend Seeking Wellness for the sledgehammer impact that it starts off with. Cup of Friendship, Shrine of Scars is brutal and depraved and will completely rip your heart apart as you sit through it. With no audio or screams, the camera fixates on this rolling series of security camera footage that shows us this tremendous and awful footage. The only audio heard is a buzzing industrial sound that you can’t help but feel unnerved from. I don’t want to spoil anything that happens, but I will simply say that atrocities are committed and human life is shown to be a fragile and often times disgusting thing. The greatest parts in this short are the little things. Despite there being no audio, these small details help flesh out this entire concept. In one of the rooms that our camera flips to, a hospital patient sits with no arms and waits for the doctor to see him. As he does, the only movement we can see in the room is a floating balloon attached to a "get well soon" basket. The balloon draws our attention and causes us to realize just how real this person is, that someone cares for him and that makes what happens next all the more tragic. It’s a desolate and sad thing to see, but the disturbing content that follows makes it heart breaking.
Dan Schneidkraut has to be commended, because the concepts behind each of these individual shorts and the segue between each is near-genius. From the anticipation and intensity that is created during Shrine of Scars, to the witty narrative play that comes from introducing part four in the series and then wrapping it around part three. Each story shows characters who are either searching for physical, emotional, intellectual or psychological improvement but in one manner or another they all seem to fail. Bleak, depressing, disturbing. These are all very apt descriptions for Seeking Wellness. What I can promise you however is that there are few films that will have the emotional impact that you can expect from this piece of work. A tremendous production that doesn’t so much as dare you, but ultimately FORCES you to think about what the filmmaker has to say and what his goals are. He comes close to showing his hand during Final Project as things get a bit heavy handed but after the previous emotional ups and downs that the viewer has experienced up until that point, all is easily forgiven.
In case you haven’t picked up on my opinion just yet, I loved Seeking Wellness. A confrontational and disturbed slice of independent cinema that has few rivals. It is intelligent, harsh, abrasive and at times beautiful. It can be different things for different viewers, but for those who think that they can handle a bit of violent content in the pursuit of something engaging and new, it comes highly recommended. Make sure to visit the official website at http://www.seeking-wellness.com and order the DVD through http://sepulchralvoice.bigcartel.com.