Sydney Underground Film Festival: Reality (France, 2014)

If Quentin Dupieux can make Rubber, a film about a tyre work, then I figured that this one that is about a person was bound to be gold. People are way more interesting than tyres! He really did make a film about a tyre (I’m not being weird… he is) and I’ve been told it’s great. But I can’t bring myself to watch it because it sounds as dull as watching a tyre. Like it really shouldn’t work. It sounds designed not to work. It’s like your dad was a jerk and gave you a tyre for Christmas because the family got a flat. But you showed him by turning the tyre into a swing and having the best holidays ever! It’s my fucking tyre dad I can do what ever I want with it! So I’m glad that Dupieux finally got real toys to play with.

A film about a tyre is at the very least an original concept. It’s really hard to make an original film, and for Reality, Dupieux tried really hard to be original. Too hard. If there is an idea for this film it’s lost. It feels like the director’s need to be clever for its own sake. The funny vignettes aren’t funny enough. The surreal narrative, not clever enough to warrant sitting through that much confusion. Complex ideas can be confusing, but so can nonsense. By the time I caught up with what the film was about, it felt obvious and laboured. It seems like Dupieux decided to take the challenge of the screen writing cliché of it all actually being a dream to its furthest conclusion to see if it would work. Admirable. It just didn’t really work. It didn’t speak to me aesthetically enough to be considered as a weird film art ride. I was bored enough that I found myself wondering about the minor aspects of the edit and grade as the mise-en-scène unravelled.

I asked my friend who liked it and particularly enjoyed the comic moments of the film what was stand out about the film. She said that she liked it because “it was pointless like philosophy”. Once my horror at that assessment of philosophy passed, I disagreed, pointing out that philosophy at the very least poses questions. I pressed “what was the central question of this film?” Just as she was about to tell me, she was moved on by an usher. And that’s exactly what the experience of watching this film was like. I kept feeling like I might be about to be filled in, but it never came. The lack of clear protagonist early on, the confusing parallel stories, the dreams instead of drama, the lack of antagonist or true stakes for any of the characters might all be allowable if it was more amusing or if its central question was clearer. If I wanted an essay I would have gone to a documentary. If you’ve ever wondered what a film made by someone who is always convinced that he’s the smartest person in the room would be like, go see Reality. I won’t be watching that tyre film after all.

I didn’t want my take to be so harsh, but I really feel like it was a waste of time. I still admire the spirit of the attempt and have enjoyed Dupieux’s music and music videos. Two stars for a brave attempt.

Review Score: TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Reality screened as part of the Sydney Underground Film Festival