Experimental Love Letter To Iceland’s Therapeutic Vistas
Films are, for the most part, classified as either narrative or non-fiction. Samples of the docu’s format line’s being blurred have become more prevalent in the last decade than ever before, as is the case with the hard-to-define picture, experimental, catchall category that Andrea Sisson and Pete Ohs’ debut feature I Send You This Place belongs to. Although it is essentially a non-fictional film, its construction appears more in line with something from a video-art exposition at a museum. It doesn’t follow a pattern, or tries to clearly expose an issue, or an extraordinary person’s life; it is, at least from its synopsis, about a journey to understand mental illness. Be warned, it is much more metaphorical than what most viewers can handle.
Divided in 9 chapters, which is strange since the film barely reaches the feature-length mark at about 68 minutes, it features Andrea exploring, paraphrasing, and having existential epiphanies while roaming the Icelandic terrain. Most clips feel like reenactments, or perhaps scripted vignettes chosen to match the quasi-poetic rambling that scores the piece. She talks to Pete about her brother Jake, who is not in Iceland or anywhere in the film for that matter, and about how the world doesn’t understand his mental process. What the message of the film? Andrea’s brother Jake is misunderstood because his mind is a free-spirited, wild, untamable, and unpredictable as Iceland’s weather and gorgeous frozen landscape. That’s it.
The duo’s half National Geographic special/half thesis project of sophisticated sound editing does include some breathtaking images. It is easy to see how such natural beauty can create a sense of otherworldliness or peace, but perhaps that is not enough to make a whole documentary about the subject. Andrea and Pete’s conversations about how life changing their trip was is interesting at best, not engaging but with enough coherence to get through the film. Nonetheless, sometimes the randomness of the images takes from the few profound notes that work. Examples: A long sequence of kids in the playground feeding each other dirt or a chapter on the peculiarity of Icelandic doors. Are they really that appealing? It almost forces anyone to inquire if these are fillers just to make the feature-length mark.
At any rate, I Send You This Place is short enough to enjoy the vibrant whiteness of the island nation. Yet, it’s hard to fully understand Andrea’s motivation or logic for trying to connect with his schizophrenic sibling via desolate land. She speaks of the exhilarating emotions she experienced, and how everything felt more real without being able to implant that fascination into the viewer through the overall visual experiment this is. The repetitive sound mixing effects, the visual trickery, and the evocative mood it tries to convey all fall short. The multi-talented filmmakers probably tried to create something bigger out what little they had; the result is a vibrant set of exotic vistas and a voiceover that tells of their mind-healing powers. Works great as a marketing video to promote tourism to the chilly nation.