28 March 2014

BIFF 2014 #1: BLUE RUIN (Jeremy Saulnier, 2013, US) - The Outsider





Blue Ruin is the first film I have seen at the BIFF and I hope to see many more in the coming days. I am also determined to post regularly as my blogging habits of late have been pretty terrible. Dwight (Macon Blair) is a drop out who seems to have landed on earth from a distant galaxy. We get the impression that Dwight enjoys the disconnection from mainstream society, as it seems to be a choice predicated on non-conformity. Conversely, it transpires his resistance is an impulse predicated on a past history in which he seems to have become anchored existentially. Blue Ruin is an American independent film directed by cinematographer turned director Jeremy Saulnier. This is Saulnier’s second feature and while the revenge narrative is altogether familiar in terms of traditional storytelling the neo noir idioms and elliptical editing make for a suspenseful thriller. The Hitchcockian idea of pure cinema is an aspect of the film that I found very intriguing. The first thirty minutes in particular dispense with dialogue and rely on us trying to piece together fragments of a narrative. Saulnier’s real interests remain with what is essentially a character study of Dwight and exploring the antagonism of familial relations. Additionally, the film also gradually emerges as a meditation on violence, recalling the work of the Coen Brothers such as Blood Simple. The transformation (a slight one to say the least) of Dwight from an impotent male to a man who knows how his way around a firearm conflates a masculinity in crisis complex with a savage lawlessness, conjuring a morally corrupt universe. If revenge becomes a downward spiral from which he cannot escape, it is also a means by which Dwight can challenge perceptions about his own identity, formulated a new one along the way that desperately seeks a closure to the past. The dark humour that pops up intermittently reminded me of the recent Norwegian thriller Headhunters (2011). The trajectory of Dwight which seems doomed from the outset pushes the film to an ending that seems a little too predictable. Nonetheless, Blue Ruin is still a terrifically crafted neo noir mood piece featuring a stand out performance by Macon Blair.

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