By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.
There’s an abstract beauty beneath the equally appealing visual style of writer and director Mike Messier’s 2014 short film, “Nature of the Flame”.
It is established early with shots of a body of water and feet, in a suggestion of serenity, wading in the stream. Suddenly we cut to a woman (Lindsey Elisabeth Cork in a tremendously wrought performance) sleeping.
After being told she isn’t prepared for enlightenment by an elusive figure (Jocelyn Padilla in an appropriately transcendent acting turn) in a monastery Cork wakes up in a cave.
From here the rapt audience participant wonders: “Did she die in her sleep?”, “Is this a glimpse of what awaits for her in the afterlife?”, “Is this merely a dream?”
Messier wisely gives us the room to come to our own conclusions with these inquiries. This is welcome since if concrete answers were provided it might’ve taken away from the ethereal, haunting, meditative experience at hand.
Despite these lingering questions one thing we know for certain is that Messier and company have captured the confusion and potential sense of ascension that can be tied to the narrative elements terrifically well. Furthermore, Messier evokes an even, appropriate pace throughout the endeavor.
But, the smartest move is that Messier allows the audience to attach his or her own conclusion as to the proceedings. This is done by letting a succession of gentle, intimate, ardent, and attractively executed and shot, sequences speak for itself.
There is no dialogue in the last five and a half minutes. This decision adds layers of skillfulness, invention and sentiment upon an already gripping set-up.
The musical score, along with Chris Hunter’s editing, enhances the illusion of going to what could be perceived to be a higher plane.
Moreover, Messier’s writing and directing are intelligent and illuminating.
The cinematography captures the allure and enigma of the storyline with an equally striking veneer.
“Nature of the Flame” captures all of the sentiment and drama of a full-length feature in just under eight minutes. It is always stunning to look at, to be caught up in and to think about long after its serene conclusion.
This is more than a brief fling with cinema: it is an exhibition of craft.