Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Seeking Wellness: Suffering Through Four Movements (2008)
Seeking Wellness is a horrifying yet oddly redemptive piece of work. Four vignettes comprise the film all of which are disturbing but on different levels. As such, it may be difficult for some to get through because of the content. On the back of the DVD cover it came with explicit directions: 'ATTENTION: Seeking Wellness is a conceptual video cycle intended to be experienced from beginning to end without interruption. If you choose to experience Seeking Wellness in another manner you will not yield maximum emotional stimulation. Please watch Seeking Wellness in its entirety without pause.' This isn't hype or hyperbole. It actually happens to be the truth as this is a film experience that evokes a whole range of emotions.
The first 'video' has no sound but the buzzing of an electrical current which feeds multiple cameras within a hospital. It appears to be a hospital in which folks are rehabbing from some sort of serious injury (i.e. losing limbs or perhaps serious burns). The camera constantly rotates between patient rooms, the reception area, a break room and a storage closet which contains drugs. Things soon turn into a nightmare as a pair of masked men storm the hospital, drag the woman at reception into one of the rooms with a patient occupying and start to rape her, brutally killing her, the doctor, and patient in the process. The cameras continue to switch and we see the men viciously murder the other patients one by one, the constant rotating giving you the feeling of a cycle that will not end and with that, a feeling of utter hopelessness.
After the sledgehammer to the face that is the beginning, our next video centers on a divorced man and his two kids at Christmastime. What starts as a fairly run-of-the-mill family experience as dad shows old pictures via a slideshow, it slowly devolves into utter shock and horror as he stops on a picture of his uncle. He tells about the 'special' relationship he had with him and how his uncle 'prepared' him for the intimate relationship they were going to have. When the projector malfunctions, dad hits the lights and daughter and son are seen hands folded on the coach with heads down. Clearly, they do not want to be there. Reluctantly, they grab Christmas presents from under the tree and begin to open them. The son gets a fairly boring Rubix cube but it's the daughter's present which causes the most gut wrenching moment. In one single gift giving act, the father signals his intent to 'prepare' his daughter for the same sort of relationship he had with his uncle. It's a scene like this that levels any you've seen in a horror film filled with blood and guts. This is real-world horror that shakes you to the core.
Our third video, involves a woman giving a college class final presentation. Her subject is a man whom she follows around and video tapes. He reveals wishes for nothing more than to contract a terminal illness which will hopefully bring his ex back into the picture and to his side when she finds out that he is gravely ill and in need of care. The woman's thesis is about how people inflict harm upon themselves in order to feel some sort of accomplishment or sense of purpose. Her subject even talks about having never amounted to much and giving himself cancer would be his 'grand' achievement. As such, he researches carcinogens and does everything he can to contract cancer: he hangs out at factories, sleeps on newly painted rooftops, to name a few. In one scene that drew a laugh from me, he's shown eating paint that's peeling away from a wall.
After it's clear that he's given himself cancer, the film awkwardly transitions into the final video which is set in the same classroom as the 3rd. Our carcinogen ingesting subject (who's heavily medicated) is placed on a gurney and members of the school's medical staff join the presenter as they cut into him and extract a significantly large tumor that's grown on his left side. In a grotesque scene, the students participate in a bit of a feast as it's explained to them that this man's commitment and sacrifice should be acknowledged and they should give thanks. This one scene is the connective tissue that makes the other 'videos' make sense.
From hopelessness to despair to self-inflicted injury to sacrifice and purpose (as odd as it is), Seeking Wellness is not an easy film to get through. Much like The Bunny Game which I experienced earlier this year, the film is extremely trying but ultimately, it is the prime example of why I love horror and why I run this site: it's thought provoking and it will stay with you long after the credits roll.
Cortez the Killer