I’ve taken a couple cracks at writing a review-friendly synopsis for Jesse Knight’s F-3, and I’ve come up short each time. The truth is I haven’t been able to make much sense of the film, definitely not enough to tell you what it is about. I can tell you a snippet of what it contains though.
There’s war, demons, rituals, self-mutilation and voiceovers waxing philosophic. There’s gas masks, samurai swords, nanotechnology, a predominantly droning soundtrack and footage that is layers upon layers of dark imagery that is often challenging to discern. It’s at times hypnotic, other times bleak and insufferable.
I’m sure you could describe the film as “trippy,” but if you do it’s more along the lines of a bad trip, the kind you hope will end soon. The pacing is glacial, and the film’s excursions into gore are less shocking than they are repetitious and tedious. Watching the film is a ponderous and joyless experience.
And considering some of the themes, perhaps that is the point. If the film wanted to give the viewer an idea of what Hell is like, it certainly succeeds in its own way. It’s not like that is a pleasant experience however, and the film has a near impenetrable narrative, at least for me. I found myself becoming numb to the film as it lumbered on, and regardless of what revelations the film might have hidden, I was turned off to them.
All that said, the unnerving constant of the film’s soundtrack shows a knack for material that gets under the skin and hangs out there, for better or worse. I appreciated it, even as I disliked it. Likewise much of the film’s visually odd moments succeed despite me not knowing (or ultimately caring) what was going on. As it entered its final fifteen minutes, it took a stylistic turn that had me wishing the majority of the film had been so bold, instead of relying on what appeared to be stall tactics to bulk up a film too thin to survive as a feature.
In the end, F-3 certainly has its moments, but I don’t know of many who will have the patience to find them. I wouldn’t have minded a film that gave me more narrative and less tricks with the footage, but I’ll also admit that whatever this film was trying to say went right by me, so maybe that narrative was there and I just missed it.
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