“The medium is the message.”
This famous phrase from Marshall McLuhan rings truer than ever almost six decades after he coined it. In that time so many additional media and media formats have arisen that it’s almost impossible to count them all. But each and every one has its own flavor of meaning attached to it. Its own version of reality that it captures. For anyone who works very deeply in media, the challenge is to keep a firm grasp of reality and not allow yourself to fall too deeply under the spell of the false world it creates.
This is the kind of story that FAR FROM THE APPLE TREE tells, and it tells it in a way that could only be told today. Shot using a variety of formats including 35mm, 16mm, home processed film and Betamax, the movie at times looks more like a cinematographer’s demo-reel than a feature film. But it’s these dreamlike pop-art sequences that truly bring the audience into the mind of the characters. As you drift away in wonder at what you’re seeing, so does the protagonist. And for her, this is a much more dangerous proposition than for the audience.
FAR FROM THE APPLE TREE follows Judith (the amazing Sorcha Groundsell), a young visual artist desperate for a break. When she’s offered the opportunity to work for the renowned and infamous artist Roberta Roslyn (Victoria Liddelle) she leaps at the chance. Roberta wants her to move in with her and catalog her work. But when Judith discovers that much of Roberta’s work centers on her daughter who looks disturbingly similar to Judith, the lines of reality and art become harder and harder to distinguish.
This is an art film in the truest sense of the term. While the story itself is interesting and the performances are praiseworthy, this is a film that is far more about art and philosophy than narrative. It manages to ask a lot of questions that are very poignant for today’s society, which consumes far more media than any other time before. What effect does all of this media have on us internally? How much are our personalities absorbed and subsumed by the media we consume? How much creativity is merely imitation? And when you use another person as your inspiration, what does that leave them with? This is a film that views inspiration as a kind of vampirism. Fueling the creativity of one person at the cost of another.
If you’re a fan of films with big ideas and tons of visual flair, FAR FROM THE APPLE TREE is definitely for you. Wrapping all of that up in a dark mystery with great performances really makes this one-of-a-kind. It’s absolutely a slow burn, but if you can buy into the premise and engage with it intellectually, you’ll be rewarded with a very unique and moving experience.