There is something haunting, twisted and yet achingly beautiful about “Existence.” The film, shot on the coast of New Zealand, is not only visually gorgeous, but physically chilling. For the first time in a long time, I had to calm my racing heartbeat after stepping out of the auditorium.
The film, written and directed by Juliet Bergh, dips into the relatively modern genre of “salvagepunk,” a theme that explores post-apocalyptic worlds and dystopian societies. In “Existence,” young mother Freya lives with her two children, husband and father-in-law on a windy, ruined coastline. Opposite the ocean is an ominous, ever-running wind farm, accompanied by an electrically-charged fence called the Boundary Fence. The Fence is guarded by cowboy-esque law enforcers, titled The Riders, whose sole duty is to make sure none of Freya’s people get through the gate. Freya, desperate for freedom, enters into a physical relationship with one of these Riders, hoping he will allow her access to the “other side.”
The concept itself is enough to cause ample intrigue, and yet played out in film, it is a hundred times better. The cinematography is brilliant, relying mainly on facial expressions, movements, and music to tell the story, rather than dialogue. The plot follows no strict rule, instead hitching the audience onto a roller coaster of ups and downs.
While there are some slow parts to “Existence”, there is nothing genuinely “boring.” When all else failed, I was captivated simply by the scenery. With such a low budget, the film creators did an astonishing job of incorporating the beautiful New Zealand ocean and fields into a movie that’s supposed to be set years and years in the future.
And Freya. Oh, Freya. It’s been years since I’ve seen such a strong, conflicted, terrifyingly lovely woman on the silver screen. She said so little, and yet her face and motions conveyed so much.
I won’t spoil too much, but “Existence” is truly a mind-blower. It’s almost as crazy as “Inception,” as Freya travels to the other side and leaves the entire audience with their jaws hanging and their eyes scanning the screen for more. The theme of the film is obscure and open, and yet any viewer will agree that it’s powerfully captivating.
“Existence” may not be the typical box-office smasher, but it’s an incredible film with creativity echoing through every scene.
By Lauren Puckett