What do you do when people at every turn disregard your creative efforts? In Gillian Wallace Horvat’s wonderfully uncomfortable yet sharp film I Blame Society, we find out. This dark feature is full of energy and small moments that make Horvat someone to look out for. Though, to be honest, you could be forgiven for only saying it to make sure that the real Horvat is not her film alter-ego. We have a satire that is angry and never stops letting us know that fact.
When a struggling filmmaker, played by writer-director Gillian Wallace Horvat, senses her peers are losing faith in her ability to succeed, she decides to prove herself with a new creative project – dispatching of her best friend’s odious girlfriend on film. But once that line is crossed, why stop with just one murder when modern society and the LA film world offer up so many candidates deserving of death?
I Blame Society purposefully starts off in a very rocky manner as we seemingly see our lead crap all over her friend’s girlfriend. As the realisation that he is being filmed dawns on him, we see how desperate Gillian is for success; why on earth would she record such a conversation other than to trap her friend? She is lost, and her friend Casey see it immediately. She literally takes an off the cuff comment and lets it stew in her for over 3 years, and uses that as a crux for everything that happens after that.
There will be fewer leads this year that will be as unlikeable yet relatable as Gillian. She is a character that goes entirely off the deep end, and we never have the opportunity to enjoy her. We are given a character who has such a need to be a filmmaker that all else around her fades away into unimportance. However, when she is surrounded by so many people who are just as bad as her, that we can’t help but feel that she is justified in her decisions. Even when we sorely want her to go down the right path and to escape these people that she is stuck around.
But that is the point the film is trying to make. No one is genuinely likeable. Hollywood is filled with unlikeable people, and this is epitomised in the producer meeting early on as Gillian meets with two producers to get her Israel progressed. Instead, we are taken on a cringe-inducing masterpiece of a scene of everything perceived to be wrong with men in Hollywood. They and their male friend have written a lot of female-centric films but do not need a female voice to help hone it to be relatable; they just need a female to direct the picture as that is in vogue or as they say to Gillian ‘An ally on your side to spearhead these projects’. There are some beautiful one-liners and moments that are had here that need to be seen to be believed.
Even the most likeable and “normal” character in Keith spews off some lines that have you immediately conflicted. I Blame Society shows that everyone has a shade of grey within them; it depends on how they want to show it. Do they become upfront about it and ignorant like a character on a first date who works for a health insurance company, or are prone to saying unhelpful or horrible things at home like Keith does.
Once Gillian starts to “commit” to her role in her own film, we see I Blame Society begin to turn a tad more sinister yet still making sure to keep the humour and awkwardness. As Gillian positions cameras around a bedroom, she whispers to the camera that she isn’t creepy; she is just getting another angle for better coverage. This should be horrifying as it is clear that she has gone too far by invading this person’s home. Yet you will laugh at the absurdity of it all. With that said, the film knows that Gillian is not a good person and can remind us of that fact after that first horrific death.
The use of the mockumentary style is superb and is set in Los Angeles is one that most people wouldn’t bat an eyelid to someone walking around everywhere with a Go-Pro attached to their head or a DSLR camera on hand. As an aspiring filmmaker, we even get little lines of her being confused with the camera as her DP friend Olivia explains it to her. The camera technique that will bring the most laughter is her use of a handmade tracking shot that she has to crank herself as she spills the beans to a date/victim. The fact that the guy just doesn’t run out the door from the story she is telling, or the fact that she is cranking a camera to pull in on her speech, almost speaks louder than what she is doing herself.
What leads you to like the film is that nothing about it is polished. We do not get wonderful cinematography or editing here; cuts are purposefully unsmooth. The acting is not as polished as you would expect it to be, and when characters appear to be playing up and “acting”, it is pretty noticeable. For people say like Gillian, she is awkward from the start. You may love or hate the film from the more natural performances. The naturalistic performances lend to the charm as if we are watching actual conversations and experiences. It just works so well.
The little moments in I Blame Society work so well. Be it the interactions with producers to Gillian telling another character that killers usually need a devastating event to kick their violence. In this world, we never think anything as dramatic as this will do so. Still, Chase and Keith’s re-emergence leaving Gillian due to how wholesale she has altered herself, physically and mentally, are the triggers she needed. If little lines like that are not brought up in the opening half, then the rest of the film doesn’t work as well.
At its heart, I Blame Society is a film about being accepted and taken seriously. At every turn, Gillian tries to get validation from her friends and boyfriend, who to be met with snide comments or derision at every turn. Be it the comment that starts off the entire film or how her boyfriend makes offhand comments as they watch her film footage. No one is willing to just be positive and give a chance. The ones that do, have ulterior motives behind it, and Gillian is forced to have her back against the wall.
Does she give in and go to Law School or does she fight and try and make something she can be proud of for accomplishing? We know the route she takes and is all the sadder that she does as, although not as dramatic, there are always consequences to not supporting someone who clearly needs it.
Blue Finch Film Releasing presents I Blame Society on Digital Download 19 April.
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