SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! A treatise on the perils and joys of hypnotism, William Glass’s short film, Night Visions, feels like a night vision, indeed – an induced hallucination, a briefly-glimpsed pearl of wisdom, a 15-minute gentle mind-fu*k. Glass gives the finger to conventional narrative, his cinematic stream of consciousness in equal parts compelling and pleasantly disorienting, if somewhat underdeveloped.
Night Visions begins during the day, instantly immersing the viewer with its ultra-shaky, anxiety-inducing camerawork, complemented by an ethereal score. Robbie (Lily Ashley) is in the back seat of a car, eyes half-closed; the driver is her friend (boyfriend? husband? lover?), eloquently named T (Hugo Nicholson). In a secluded, woodsy spot, our two heroes induce a trance-like state in each other using (what I assume is) hypnotism. As they lie on the ground, staring at the sky, a twisted statue of a serpent appears between them, and they proceed to vocalize their fragmented memories and abstract thoughts. “Leaves falling… Swelling paper badges…” and “Sundays always smell good” are just two examples of their vocal ruminations.
“…on the ground, staring at the sky, a twisted statue of a serpent appears between them…”
A man is brought up in passing – Nate (Olivier Hubbard), whom Robbie would rather not talk about. Things get trippier. Robbie dreams of the serpent mentioned earlier; upon waking, she converses with a prism of light dancing on her wall and discovers a knife with magical properties. She then reconnects with Nate, her friend (husband? boyfriend? lover?), and they discuss the knife. “What would you do if I slipped this into my neck?” he asks her suddenly, after a bit of goofing off. Ultimately, Robbie is faced with a crucial choice, and the film ends on a suitably ambiguous note.
If this all sounds rather esoteric, that is because it is. Here’s an example of a dialogue exchange: “I can hear it in your voice.” “What can you hear?” “I can hear time.” Working with next-to-no-budget, Glass aims for a mood piece, with a few impeccable shot compositions and well-chosen music. I assume the film is about the triviality of our existence, about favoring celestial realms over earthly ones – but then I could be completely wrong. Imagine Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot with a dash of Ben Wheatley, and you’ll have an idea of Glass’s minimalist, off-kilter style.
Lily Ashley acts appropriately zoned out throughout the short narrative. Like her, Night Visions is perhaps a bit too obscure, leaving a bit too much unsaid. When the blanks are this deep, it becomes a bit of a chore to fill them in. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give Glass’s singular vision a shot.
Night Visions screened at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…an induced hallucination, a briefly-glimpsed pearl of wisdom, a 15-minute gentle mind-fu*k..."