Haunting EIFF 2012: The Fourth Dimension

“We are all babies. We need to cut the umbilical cord and find the right tools. Scrape off the afterbirth and kick it off into the fourth dimension!”

Given a briefing by Grolsch Film Works and VICE Films that included rules such as “We must never know the truth” and “It needs to blur the line between what is real and what is fake” The Fourth Dimension sees Harmony Korine, Aleksei Fedorchenko and Jan Kwiecinski create three individual segments each giving their own take on the fourth dimension, their own vision of a higher plane of existence.

“I am a drill sergeant to your heart. And my love is hardcore.”

The Fourth Dimension starts with Korine’s piece entitled The Lotus Community Centre where we see Val Kilmer playing himself, but not as we know him. Having given up acting after an encounter with an alien craft that leaves him able to see the fourth dimension, Val has chosen to occupy himself by holding motivational talks filled with “awesome secrets” aiming to teach those who attend how to achieve “perfection on earth.” To Val, the fourth dimension is achievable on earth. A cotton candy land with no war, no famine, no unemployment.

Scenes of Val’s motivational speech at the Lotus Community Centre – which is full of rather bizarre, but interesting advice such as “Do not wear velvet to job interviews. Velvet killed Elvis.” – are intercut with scenes of him doing nothing more than hanging out with a young girlfriend, playing video games, riding his bike, and just chatting to people he meets on the street. It appears that his experience of the fourth dimension or his “heaven on earth” comes from the joy and freedom gained from what he sees as helping others, and the fact that he seems genuinely content just to ‘be’. The tone is light and optimistic, with bright lights and sound effects peppering the wisdom of Val.

Kilmer is at his manic and fantastic best, delivering his insights “like a robot, so they enter the mind in digital.”

“What is yesterday? My yesterday may be your today, and my tomorrow may be your yesterday.”

Fedorchenko’s segment Chronoeye, has a very different feel altogether. Concerning lonely scientist Grigory Mikhailovich (Igor Sergeev) and his experiments with travelling through time by way of a computer to view past events, Fedorchenko shows a man trapped by his past, refusing to move on.

Frustrated by continually seeing historical events through the eye of a bystander, Grigory strives to see history through the eye of God, which would therefore also enable him to catch a last glimpse of a love lost. With subplots involving unclaimed scientific prize money, and a sweet and pretty neighbour who seems to do nothing but annoy Grigory with her constant dancing, Fedorchenko’s view of reaching the fourth dimension hints at money being unable to buy happiness, and true contentment coming through letting go of the past. Finding the love possible in the fourth dimension by allowing yourself to be happy.

Only by halting his obsession with the past, and living in the now, can Grigory find his fourth dimension. Sergeev is beautifully sad and pained in the role of Grigory, while Darya Ekamasova is radiant as his neighbour Valya.

The last segment Fawns, by Kwiecinski, seems to be the weakest of the film, following a group of what appear to be hedonistic hipsters kicking about an abandoned town in search of things to wreck, steal, or play with.

A natural disaster is on its way, but the four friends seem oblivious, as they run through the town breaking into homes and filling their pockets with candy. At times, at least two of the group do have fleeting moments of reflection, and almost worry, increasing when one of their group goes missing. During their search for him, they encounter – and, cause – tragedy.

It is when they at their worst, though, that they find the best of themselves. A humanity and kindness previously not shown. Is this their way to the fourth dimension? Care and respect for others? Despite the lasting message, the segment itself is an anti-climax considering the strength of Korine and Fedorchenko’s work, and I feel the film would benefit as a whole if the segments were shown in reverse order, leaving the optimistic high of a smiling Val Kilmer riding his bike to an auto-tuned, joy-filled song about the fourth dimension.

In each of the three short films within The Fourth Dimension, the main character – or characters – undergoes a change. A kind of epiphany which alters their life. It is this change in thinking that leads to experiencing the fourth dimension. A cotton candy land of happiness and kindness.

There’s a sense of fun that also runs through a lot of The Fourth Dimension, from the opening quotes that start with Einstein, move to Eisenstein, and end up at the Doc from Back to the Future, to the light-hearted actions and ‘playing’ of many of the characters. Maybe this is another aspect of that higher plain of existence. Who knows?

I for one feel ready to take the life advice of Val Kilmer and turn whatever savings I have into gold, then bury it under my bath tub. So I’ll be sitting on a goldmine at the end of every night.

Check out all of our coverage from EIFF 2012.

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