BUSAN, South Korea – I came out of Bellflower (2011) with major respect for writer, producer, director, editor, and star Evan Glodell. I mean, what cojones. He understood that nobody in Hollywood was going to give him a break, so he made this debut independent feature film on a reported $17,000 budget.
Glodell stars as Woodrow, an awkward mumbler who loves to build bad-ass Mad Max replica cars and flamethrowers with his best friend Aiden. Woodrow and Aiden spend their time preparing for the apocalypse, which means they sketch Road Warrior's Lord Humongous and play with fire in an empty lot. Things turn sour, as they usually do, when Woodrow falls in love with Milly, an impulsive girl who ultimately finds Woodrow too clingy and breaks his heart. Eventually the apocalypse arrives, at least for the film's central characters, and the film comes to realize Woodrow and Aiden's bloody fantasies.
Glodell and his Coatwolf production crew actually built the flame-spouting Mad Max car and the flamethrower, as well as a brand new kind of camera using miscellaneous parts Glodell found at supply stores, shown here. The camera allows a depth and saturation of color that creates a surreal atmosphere fitting for an apocalypse. While the dripping vividness of the film's images is probably Glodell's finest achievement, he also uses shallow focus and spot focus, adding to the feeling that the characters have lost control, that they are victims of a world that has become too intense to be understood and rationalized.
Thematically, Bellflower is a movie about the impossibility of masculinity. Before any hearts are broken, Woodrow and Aiden are already tormented by the pointlessness of their lives. They have no responsibilities, so they can run around pretending to be Lord Humongous. The stylized onscreen worship of the flamethrower, shotgun, and Mad Max car signifies masculinity, but these are empty symbols mined from action films. The real tragedy for Woodrow is that he is not manly, never will be, as evidenced by his inability to keep Minny. His transformation into Lord Humongous, therefore, is not the realization of masculinity so much as the failure to do so, or even to understand what a real man is. This inability to find purpose and control will strike a chord with many young Americans, and so the heart of Bellflower is worthy of the film's unique aesthetic.
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