Wavelength is a 45 minute movie in which the camera zooms in on a room with a bunch of windows. It stars Far Left Window, Far Right Window, Center Left and Center Right Windows, with supporting roles from Pictures Taped to the Wall and The Desk. Wikipedia calls it one of the greatest Canadian films ever made. For this review, I will walk you through my experience.
I figured I had some time to kill after my Saturday evening plans were cancelled, so I found the film on Youtube and hit that sweet play button. I knew that it was going to be some serious art because comments were disabled for the video. I flipped it to fullscreen and began watching. After a few minutes, I wondered if the entire film would just keep zooming in on the windows for 45 minutes. My suspicions would soon be confirmed. Two women came into the frame and had a chat, then listened to some low quality version of Strawberry Fields, but I just kept staring at the windows, wondering where this whole thing was going.
A bit more time passed and I could swear the background noise of the film was getting higher pitched and louder, or I wondered if maybe I was descending into madness. A man walked into frame and died right on the floor. I took little notice, though, as I was mesmerized by the flickering colors and shifting focus of the camera as it kept slowly zooming and adjusting on these windows. I wondered what was behind them. At first it appeared a movie theatre was outside with signs displaying the day’s features, but as the camera continued to zoom it appeared to be some standard storefront. Sometimes a bus would race by. The words at the top right of the screen say “RAITRE” and I try for a few minutes to find some kind of anagram. No dice.
This was the longest stretch of time in the film without humans. For perhaps fifteen to twenty minutes, the lights would occasionally flicker to a different tint but the camera kept focusing in on something. I noticed some pictures taped to the wall. I couldn’t make out what any of them were just yet, but they sort of looked like a cool man wearing sunglasses with how they were arranged, so I just pictured Sunglasses Man and what adventures he was getting himself into. Eventually, some woman comes in and calls the police about the dead man on the floor. I didn’t like her character, as she blocked the view of Sunglasses Man and ruined my fun time. She leaves and the camera keeps zooming and the lights keep flickering. Sometimes I forget I’m looking at windows and see other images out of their shape like alcohol bottles or TV screens. Soon enough, both the windows and Sunglasses Man can’t be seen at all anymore and the camera zooms in on a single picture in the center – the ocean. The film is over.
If you think I’m making fun of the film through all of this, you’re only about ten percent right. I went into Wavelength with an open mind and came out impressed with how impressive a 45 minute film about some windows can be. It made me think about how most every room spends so much time being empty – how almost everything on Earth just isn’t being used 99% of the time and most of it never will be. It’s strange. Maybe that’s what these films do – they numb your brain until you start thinking about this stuff. If so, I honestly think it’s pretty cool.
Wavelength is apparently a “structural film,” one with a fixed camera, constant flickering, and loop printing. I can’t say I’m too sold on the avant garde movement just yet, but if it made me go to Wikipedia to learn what a structural film is, then I guess I learned something. I think the style really lends itself to focus. I stared at those windows for a solid 45 minutes, but I think if you really commit yourself to the film it can put your brain in a place of concentration. Maybe I didn’t think about whatever Michael Snow wanted me to think about, but I thought about things I never think about otherwise. So sure, I’ll call it a good movie.
Films Left to Watch: 985