1 Apr 2022
Bijan Karim, Alden Doyle
Alden Doyle, Abigail Markowitz, Bijan Karim
“Silence calling out to me”
There is a captivating serenity with Makyo, Bijan Karim’s film about a man named Abner seeking purpose in the world. As said above, Abner feels an invisible pull, a call to an action he is not entirely sure of. That detachment Abner has to the world around him is reflected through the filmmaking as Karim’s direction, editing along with Daniel Wester’s cinematography draws the audience to its relaxing and reflective vistas. We gather bits and pieces of Abner’s history, his relationships with old friends and idiosyncratic strangers while at the same time Karim always keeps us at a distance. Insights through narration give the character a poetic voice with Alden Doyle’s performance staying grounded in realism. While some scenes were clearly performed with other actors in the narrative, other moments felt that Karim and Doyle had gone documentarian and filmed real people’s reactions to Abner’s character interacting with them.
Wester’s cinematography has a POV/documentary style to it at times, with sequences feeling voyeuristic as the camera follows or at times chases Abner. It doesn’t break the tranquillity of the film but does make the long static shots more striking. Scenes of the film will just take place in one wide shot, the breadth of the image be it under a bridge or a beachfront washes over the audience, wonderfully ensnaring them to the beauty. My favourite shot is two walls framed in a doorway that Abner and Abigail Markowitz’s Jazz were painting, the scene ending with both characters sitting on the floor. The two characters speak in the lower thirds of the frame, yet Wester's use of negative space and framing allows the scene to keep its emotion.
The imagery made lively in silence as well as the use of music, using both licensed music or original score by Evan Hardenburger all have the same serene effect. Makyo creates a feeling of zen for the audience, and with that title, one can only guess that it is Karim’s desired effect for his film. Makyo is a term used in Zen Buddhism that has some different interpretations; referred to as the realm of devils or “illusory experiences” that can happen during meditation. Though in a broad sense, Makyo can also refer to attachments to experiences in everyday life. That latter description is more in line with Karim and Doyle’s screenplay as Abner questions his attachments to the places and people around him. Though with the character’s inner struggles and experiences in the film, the other two descriptions are applicable as well though not in a literal sense.
A film like Makyo would usually struggle to hold my attention, with its slow disconnected narrative but Karim’s direction and editing are fascinating and feel akin to meditation. The distance can be a detriment at times but Makyo has its ways to quietly draw you back in. Overall a soothing spiritual journey of reconnection that is brought forth through strong cinematography and vision.