Surrender (2016) – By Paul Busetti

 

More confounding even than David Lynch’s films is defining exactly what is “Lynchian”. Author David Foster Wallace tried to pin it down as “A particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former’s perpetual containment within the latter. More succinctly, Bruce Springsteen referred to his hometown as Lynchian in that “Everything was there but underneath everything was rumbling”.

The Lynchian merging of the wholesome with an invading force is on display in the short film “Surrender”. The life of husband and father Dave (Aram Hekinian) is rapidly spirally down. He wakes up in strange places, hallucinates that fingers are reaching out from his bathroom faucet, and even encounters his doppelganger. In the beginning it seems reminiscent of Denis Villeneuve’s claustrophobic “Enemy” or Lynch’s own debut “Eraserhead”. But just when it appears to have unique, bizarre potential, it reveals itself to be rather unremarkable. Nightmarish visions amount to nothing more than a sanctimonious morality tale about the dangers of alcoholism. At home, Dave lives a seemingly idyllic life with a beautiful wife and daughter but he shirks his wife’s attempts at intimacy and slips out every night. He is a slave to alcohol demons which force him to drink and make him lust after his female co-worker.

I’m curious and director Christopher Carson Emmons & writer Mark Renshaw’s intentions. Did they feel a personal calling to address the plight of alcoholism? Or did they seek to make a film about a man’s descent into a darkness and just chose alcoholism out of convenience? Obviously, addiction can lead people into hellish lows, but for the film to use such a hodgepodge of shock tricks feels insulting to its audience. If that’s not enough, it opens with a Thomas Fuller quote and ends with a statistic pulled from the Department Of Health website.

Underneath the clumsy message, the craftsmanship is mostly solid. Much of the time, the film eschews traditional sound design and we are left with only the score, which is solid although occasionally melodramatic. The floaty camerawork is effective capturing Dave’s lecherous, wandering eye. The scene where the object of his desire grips him by the throat and forces him underneath the bath water is particularly remarkable. .

“Surrender” is available online @ https://vimeo.com/176237254