The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Sunday, July 27, 2008
THE LENS WHICH PIERCES TO THE CENTER OF OBJECTS CREATES ITS OWN WORLD: A small group takes an excursion into the woods. One of them records nervous video monologues about the strange creature they may have encountered. The entity itself might be something supernatural, might be someone in disguise, and might be a sign of madness.

It isn't The Blair Witch Project, but the parallels are striking enough to make me wonder if that low-budget horror hit -- nine years old this year! my, how time flies -- was an inspiration, conscious or unconscious, for Antero Alli's The Invisible Forest, in which the group entering the woods is a troupe of actors and the creature they may have contacted is the ghost of the surrealist playwright Antonin Artaud. In The Blair Witch Project, the movie drew much of its power from the suggestion that the story was actually true. The Invisible Forest does the reverse, mixing dreams with forest scenes so surreal that by the end of the picture, you're not sure which moments, if any, were not part of the protagonist's imagination.

Alli's movies almost always include visionary sequences that stand out as the visual peak -- and, sometimes, the dramatic peak -- of the stories that contain them. In this film, improvised without a script, those visually inventive, non-linear scenes nearly take over the movie altogether. I had mixed feelings about this: What may be his most delirious picture to watch is also his most difficult story to follow, and at times the narrative seemed to spiral out of control. On the other hand, the spiral takes us places an ordinary, scripted story might avoid, even when the visual effects cease. In particular, the improvised dialogues between Alli, as the troupe director who believes he has been contacted by Artaud, and Garret Dailey, as his psychiatrist "Philip K. Brodrique," are naturalistic, funny, frightening -- in general, the best acting I've seen in Alli's oeuvre.

A 2008 release, The Invisible Forest is not currently playing in any theaters, but it is available
on DVD.

Update: I forwarded this review to Alli, who I've interviewed a couple of times in the past. From his reply:
Each film I make always carries a deeper subtext -- "what this film is really about" -- that I don't tell the actors or the audience. It's part of what drives me to make each film. With "Forest" I wanted to offer an aesthetically pleasing yet psychologically disturbing experience of getting lost...lost in the dark wood, as it 'twere.

posted by Jesse 4:20 PM
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