“You Left Me”
After reading the letter that came with my screener for Jon Alex‘s 2 Kings, I was excited to see what magic was wrought by this young creative who wrote, directed, starred, and did everything but write the song. The praise was high and the name-dropping intriguing—both Norman Mailer and James Cromwell made the cut to recommend the budding auteur through proxy either knowingly or not. Even the premise of identical twins dealing with one’s descent into insanity begged to be treated with an open mind and I gave the film a chance.
Unfortunately, while the thirty-minute short deserves a heap of praise on paper, in orchestration it simply falls apart. More art piece than film, the whole gets bogged down in a never-ending barrage of color filters and effects. It’s an experiment that shows Alex’s ambitions, but should remain an early attempt at craft rather than an example of his expertise. After watching the ‘abridged’ end credits, however—with the filmmaker’s name in colorful halo asking to be laughed at as it scrolls by about twenty times in a misguided hope for applause—I see he thinks he’s already hit his apex.
It’s a shame really because a bit of humility could have gone a long way. One can forgive the amateurish production value in lieu of a solid concept if the artist didn’t take himself so seriously. Maybe it’s all meant as tongue-in-cheek—which it might be if you read the film’s glowing comments on IMDB—but I don’t buy it considering the dark subject matter. I congratulate Jon on the feat he’s undertaken and the fruits of his labor, but a masterpiece it is not. I hope friends and family are objective enough to give the truth and be able to watch future progress as a result. The guy has obvious talent and can only improve with help from professionals in the business to teach him and show how collaboration is a blessing and not a curse.
There are some stunning sequences of aged photographs depicting young twins Sam and Matt Nima (Alex) that will stick in your mind. The score is haunting when juxtaposed against the disappearing memories as the young boys’ smiling faces show a joy their older counterparts have lost. Left alone after their parents were killed in a car crash at age two, the brothers have relied on each other for over a quarter decade now, cultivating a bond we like to believe all twins possess. They live together, sleep together, and eat together in what begun as a healthy relationship but has now devolved into one of with incestuous undertones. While Matt looks to expand his horizons and find a life for himself outside the stifling gaze of his brother, Sam can do nothing but watch as his kingdom falls around him.
A girlfriend is the impetus to force them apart—one Matt hopes can bolster their bond rather than break it. But every night away with Crystal is an evening to allow Sam’s jealousy and anger fester. We watch through Sam’s eyes to understand how much he loves his sibling. Dinner becomes a date with an expectation of punctuality and perfection that Matt simply cannot handle. It’s when he decides to leave with his girlfriend that Sam finally snaps, fracturing reality into a series of disjointed vignettes growing increasingly violent as days go by. And when murder and destruction prove too small, Sam goes so far as to visualize his soul mate realizing the error of his ways in a full return home to set things right and be one again.
The chaos that ensues from this series of hallucinatory moments is where 2 Kings excels and ultimately fails. At certain points—especially with the photographs—Alex controls his pacing beautifully with successfully edited transitions despite their cheap aesthetic. For the most part, though, the constant use of freeze frames fading into the next scene grows tedious. The disjointed montage of imagery helps instill the idea we’re entering the mind of a mad, broken creature, but also shows the artifice at play. Repeated motifs like an oven’s burner igniting lose all import, growing impotent to becoming anything more than a crutch grabbed too often with too little meaning.
It all might have been saved if Alex let even one second stand ambiguous for us to interpret for ourselves. Instead he decides to spell it all out in an extended ten-minute reveal that rehashes the entire film before it unnecessarily. We don’t need to revisit all the ‘tricks’ once we’re exposed to the truth; the realization alone should give us the “A-ha!” moment to wonder how much of what we saw happened—if anything at all. Alex may prove just how much work he did in creating his film by showing us the magic trick, but doing so also renders everything false in the process.
courtesy of the film’s website: www.2kingsmovie.com