MALADY: a disease or disorder of the animal body; an unwholesome or disordered condition
I was recently given the opportunity to review Jack James’ directorial debut feature film, Malady, appearing at the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival this Saturday. Mr. James had reached out to me with the offer to preview the film with the caveat that it was “a bit out there”- and, yes, it was. Dark, too. Very dark.
From the beginning, the music and cinematography played a crucial role, helping to set the pitch and layout the twisted dynamics. In the first 18 minutes, barely a word was spoken, and when there was a bit of dialogue it was almost inaudible. Without the dialogue, it required the moviegoer to fill in the blanks, and there were a lot of blanks to complete.
The opening scenes were choppy and, at times, hard to follow, but I don’t think that hurt the film. The excessive music that synced with the opening 18 minutes seemed to represent the noise going on in their heads- the rapid editing, the confusion in their lives. The lives of the two principals, Holly and Matthew were so unusual that the path James chose depict those lives had to be equally unusual.
Holly had just suffered the loss of her mother. On her mother’s deathbed, her wish was for Holly to find true love- Matthew was going to be the answer to her mother’s wish. Mathew had his own set of dying maternal issues. His mother’s wish was for him to have a child (with her?) and to use Holly as a vessel to carry that child. That way their family “legacy” would carry on. And, what legacy would that be? Satanism? Ritualism? Self Mutilation? Cannibalism? This is where I get confused- and, a little more dialogue would have been helpful.
The film contained a plethora of symbols- angels, crucifixes, rituals, blood and more. I was never absolutely sure what things stood for. Were the angles symbolic of Holly’s mom watching over her, or were they taunting her? Was Holly (btw, only one letter off from “holy”) tempted by Satan or by love? Was Mathew’s mother Satan or and he spawn of Satan? Or, maybe there were just plain crazy.
The film is definitely worth seeing. The performances were spot on and solid. It will most likely stand alone in tone and presentation at the festival, making it a win for art house film buffs like me. But, if you are looking for words to spell this film out for you, you are out of luck. You’d better channel your inner Kafka. And, be prepared for dark. Very dark.
Malady Teaser Trailer: https://vimeo.com/115081018