Review: ‘The 4th Dimension’

Simmering with neurotic emotions and surreal dream states, "The 4th Dimension" may have arrived a generation too late for the midnight circuit. Perhaps too much of the lad's personal mystery is explained in the end, but the trip sustains a somnambulistic mood that will attract fests and alt programmers.

Simmering with neurotic emotions and surreal dream states, “The 4th Dimension” may have arrived a generation too late for the midnight circuit, but nevertheless touches subconscious nerves. Pic follows a quiet, introverted young man down an Alice-like rabbit hole of suppressed memories. Perhaps too much of the lad’s personal mystery is explained in the end, but the trip sustains a disturbing, somnambulistic mood that will attract fests and alt programmers.

Jack (Louis Morabito) ponders if “perhaps sleep is a doorway to the fourth dimension,” and opening images suggest that what follows may be induced by dreams. However, co-directors Tom Mattera and Dave Mazzoni are just as concerned with establishing Jack’s reality in the present (in a bric-a-brac stuffed antique shop where he fixes clocks and other contraptions) and the past (where a dazzling single-shot scene dramatizes in capsule form the boy’s sad life with his ill mom).

Young Jack is evidently a genius bored with standard schoolwork but also intent on pleasing mom (Karen Peakes). Sudden leaps back and forth in time — Mattera and Mazzoni are their own editors as well — create the effect of a life lived in a state of suspended animation, as well as a sense that Jack is now playing out an existence far below his original potential.

“The 4th Dimension” unfolds in a steadily slower and creepy rhythm, tracing what looks like Jack’s mental unraveling, leaving one to afterward piece together the various pieces of Jack’s fractured consciousness.

Coda, spelling out a Philadelphia mental institution’s history and legacy, seems to be a wrong choice as a capper, applying a literal and non-fiction veneer to an expressionist nightmare.

Morabito maintains an effectively buttoned-up perf until nearly the finish, at just about the same time that pic shifts from lenser Daniel Watchulonis’ eerie, high-contrast black-and-white imagery to color. Nathan Kalushner’s sets are claustrophobia-inducing worlds unto themselves.

The 4th Dimension

Production

An M&M Prods. presentation. Produced by Daniel M. Kalai, Tom Mattera, Dave Mazzoni. Executive producers, Gerard Hall, Tom Mattera, Dave Mazzoni. Directed, written by Tom Mattera, Dave Mazzoni.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, Super 16-to-DV), Daniel Watchulonis; editors, Mattera, Mazzoni; music, John Avarese; production designer, Nathan Kalushner; sound, Justin Gray; sound designer, Avarese; casting, Diane Heery. Reviewed at CineVegas Film Festival, Las Vegas, June 14, 2006. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Louis Morabito, Miles Williams, Karen Peakes, Kate Laross, Suzanne Inman. (English, German dialogue)
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