Directed by James Maximilian Jason
Starring David Bosch, Davy Jones, John Ruin, & André Foch
Indie Film Review by Chris Olson
Arriving in a sealed DVD packet, and containing a 32-page booklet/manual on how to operate, indie film project Beneath the Snow: Piovono Ombre, or Beneath the Snow: It Rains Shadows, is an eclectic and dynamic piece of filmmaking from a group of artists known as Gothic, combining various elements of storytelling, abstract art, ethereal soundtracks, and audience engagement, to create an opus of dark tales stringed together by choices made by the viewer.
The audience interaction movie is becoming increasingly popular, especially among the indie and short film crowds. We reviewed a movie, Survivor, last year which applied a similar methodology using YouTube clips. Combining film and a game-like experience where the audience becomes complicit with how the story develops, is something viewers can expect a lot more of, especially as streaming allows for a more solitary cinematic experience where choices can be made independently. However, Beneath the Snow, is the first piece this film reviewer has seen which transcends the film/game genre to further include art. The use of visual artistry and poetry can be found in Gothic’s epic indie feature, much of which is explained in the frankly vital booklet which accompanies the film. Adding another level of depth to an already enriched viewing experience, this is something, at the very least, unique and daring.
One thing which becomes instantly obvious, is that Beneath the Snow did not have a massive budget. These are low-key stories being threaded together, with a lot of shaky cameras and poor lighting. A minimalist script goes in its favour, meaning that the performers are not needed to pull too much weight, especially as this type of film will be quite alien to most viewers. What is also clear, is that the film is largely focused on the atmosphere it creates than the delivery of conventional filmmaking and narrative-based cinema. There exists a spirituality to be engulfed in, massively enhanced by the bizarre score - which has dramatic tones of techno and pounding electronica to elicit a feeling of discomfort for the audience.
To try and relay the plot would be pointless in this movie review, as each person viewing the film will pick different choices at the end of each section, thereby entering a completely different narrative. What can be said is that various themes, mostly of a dark nature, reveal themselves in multiple ways whilst leaving a large degree of subjectivity about the fundamental point being made. Much like abstract art, you will take away from this film whatever you bring to it.
As with most experimental cinema, Beneath the Snow will render the majority of audiences inert and unmoved. There is something completely impenetrable about films like this which means audiences that have been raised on mainstream cinema simply will not be able to engage with it, much like an acid trip. However, the element of choice broadens the demographic slightly, appealing to viewers looking for interactive films, and those used to the pioneers of avant garde cinema - David Lynch, Andy Warhol, and Ingmar Bergman, will appreciate the raw nature in terms of filmmaking, structure and mise en scene.
Understandably divisive, aesthetically unruly, but powerful and daring filmmaking that transcends as many barriers as it forgets to adhere to.