I may not have agreed to begin this project if I had thought it through completely. My friend Matt Cici has written, produced, and directed his own feature-length film titled Lambent Fuse, and in October, Cici and Video Word Made Flesh decided to collaborate. I was excited to work on this project, both as a writer and as a friend, and I anticipated the day that I received the screener.
But on that day, my whole attitude changed when I realized something that I had not before. It had never occurred to ask myself until the moment I held the screener: “What if I don’t like his film?”
And then I catastrophized the situation. Here I had already promised Matt Cici a collaboration in which we would feature his film on our website. What would happen to Cici’s and my friendship if I couldn’t keep that promise, let alone have to tell him that I didn’t like his film? For the first time ever, I had a vested interest in liking a film. Objectivity was not possible. (I later realized, of course, it was never possible.)
It lead me to an existential examination of myself. Who was I to critique any film? I have never invested nearly four years of my life and $10,000 of my own money into writing, directing, and creating a film. Honestly, I have never put that much energy and dedication into anything. It even prompted a poem titled “Critique of the Critic” and I later contacted Britta, editor of Video Word Made Flesh, for guidance on how to proceed.
Happily, I did enjoy the film. At the film’s core, Lambent Fuse is a character study involving six individuals: Freddie Goone (Rhett Romsaas), who plunges into a detached world full of regret after a recent and tragic event trigger his slide into depression. Allison Swanson (Heidi Fellner), whose kleptomania undermines her ability to maintain a job and a relationship with a swiftly sinking Freddie. Paul Dobbler (Eric Hanson), a mysterious chef, who takes it upon himself to meddle in the life of a woman with whom he is deeply infatuated. Phillip Richter (Matthew Feeney) who seeks to overcome allegations that threaten his long sought promotion to police captain. And lastly, Keith Malone (Nick Hansen) and Vincent Becker (Dan Eckman-Thomas) who provide the comic relief as they embark on a series of robberies that land them in a situation that is way over their heads. As their lives meld together, the consequences of their seemingly straightforward choices result in unpredictable and dynamic outcomes.
So, I really did like the film, which I felt was a candid and unique portrayal of grief and major depression, alongside an intriguing action plot. But now I was forced to assess how objective I was. Did I like the film because of our friendship or because of the inherent merit of the film? While attempting to remain objective, I reminded myself that I liked Blue Valentine, which had a similar style – I also liked On the Downlow, which was a similar project, and so I concluded that I probably would have enjoyed the film whether Cici was my friend or not.
But in this case, I was forced to take subjectivity into account. I could not separate the part of me that is a friend from the part of me that is the viewer. However, my subjectivity did not undermine the inherent value of the film; it only strengthened my connection to the film.
Some people might not have that connection, but that is what makes every viewer’s experience unique. An ambitious project in its own right, Lambent Fuse eschews pretense for an enthralling adventure that I had never had before. Perhaps that is why that it won the best Minnesota Feature at the Twin Cities Film Festival. I thank Matt Cici for such an enjoyable experience, and for the self-examination it spurred.
The premiere of Lambent Fuse will be at the Saint Anthony Main Theater (115 Main Street SE, Minneapolis, MN), at 6 pm, March 18th, 2012. Tickets can be purchased at Lambent Fuse Tickets.
Guy Stridsigne 3/12/12