Musings on time and space take a turn to the leftfield with indie movie The 4th Dimension. Clearly inspired by early David Lynch efforts such as Eraserhead (1977), writer/director team Mattera and Mazzoni have made a hypnotic introspective of an obsessive compulsive genius trying to figure out a way to get a grasp on the elements of living beyond our control. Stripped down to black and white with a patiently absorbing approach to the storytelling, the movie is a rewarding experience stylistically, however can’t quite match its engrossing atmosphere with the pay-off it deserves.
The story centres on Jack Emitni (the excellent Louis Moraboito giving his all), a loner confined to a workbench in an antique shop. As a child, Jack was obsessed with quantum physics and advanced genetic biology to the worry of his mother who believes his extra curricular thinking is disturbing. When a mysterious woman present him with a broken antique clock, unexplainable events begin to occur as he finds himself drawn to its seemingly unearthly powers. After finding Albert Einstein’s journal on his still unsolved Unified Field Theory, Jack becomes obsessed with analysing time and theorising its connection to his supernatural experiences, surreal dreams and perception of reality — hang ups he has never been able to shake from his childhood. It soon leads him to a truth even he may be unprepared to face.
Destined to be pined over by sci-fi fanatics and cinephiles looking for an involving and stylish mystery.
The 4th Dimension is so stylised it is impossible to ignore. The creepy score and stark images of inanimate objects, combined with Moraboito’s absorbing performance, make it a subversive joy to watch Jack’s compulsions envelop him into a states of high anxiety. Yet for all the painstaking build up, there is a sudden, ill-timed jolt which undoes much of the good work grounded in theoretical ramblings.
When Jack makes his way to the abandoned Philadelphia State Hospital (known in real life as “Byberry”) at the end, the directors expertly draw out the tension and build up to a potentially engrossing climax thanks to the haunting score blending perfectly with the unsettling nature of the camerawork — there is a genuine moment where you may find yourself gasping for the next second. Then a last-minute shift into colour breaks the spell cast by the dark and brooding nature of the black and white footage, which becomes more frustrating when the epilogue jarringly pulls the film into the realms of non-fiction. Still, The 4th Dimension is destined to be pined over by sci-fi fanatics and cinephiles looking for an involving and stylish mystery, while all eyes should be kept on Mattera and Mazzoni as if their future work can develop the talent they already have, we can expect great things of them.
Commentaries with writer/directors Dave Mazzoni and Tom Mattera, actor Louis Morabito and director of photography Daniel Watchulonis, making of feature, deleted scenes and trailer.
The 4th Dimension is released on DVD in the US on April 8th.