There’s a moment in the documentary “Rattle and Hum” where B.B. King is looking over the lyrics to a song Bono of U2 has presented to him.
“These are some deep lyrics, for such a young boy,” he says. Or rather, I paraphrase.
Now, you can view this sentence one of two ways – it’s either high praise – you’re a master, even though you lack years.
Or – this is pretty good. Wait, you’re how old? Drop the pretty.
“And Optimistic Perspective” tells the story of a seventeen-year-old guy named Alec. He thinks he’s a failure, when the truth is he’s just another guy lacking both ambition and direction.
One day, he hears about the death of Namana Kali, a pop singer, and starts talking to his friends about his grief over it. His friends, correctly, say that while it’s a tragedy when anyone dies, it doesn’t affect him directly and he should get over it.
But he doesn’t. Instead, he tries to start up his very own suicide cult on the Internet. His plan is to convince as many people as possible that by killing themselves on Namana’s birthday, not only will she be remembered, but they will be remembered as well.
Alas, the fickle media starts to forget about Namana almost immediately, and another pop group – the Abersummer Boys – rises to the fore of the public conscious. Alec panics, realizing that he’s got to do something to pull them out of the limelight… but what?
And what is he going to do to convince his friends to commit suicide with him?
And what do all of his terrible nightmares mean?
What’s most impressive about “An Optimistic Perspective” is that it actually has something on its mind. That thing is the eternal debate of life and death, and what makes life worth it, if it’s really worth it at all. This idea isn’t new, perhaps, but some of the little details the film captures are certainly not things that have ever occurred to me before.
An example. Early in the film, Alec points out that we don’t really get to choose the time we go, and hence what we’re wearing when it happens. After that point in the film, he’s always wearing a suit, just in case.
His debates with his friends about the nature of death are equally interesting – is it more important that you live well, or die in some way that you’ll be remembered? Or, as he puts it to his friends, what are they doing right now that’s so important? What are they going to do in the future that’s going to make them more renowned than a cult suicide?
For that matter, the film itself has a great deal more ambition than any film I’ve seen made by two guys just out of high school. At one point in the film, there’s even a police raid, complete with helicopter. It’s 95 percent lights and sound design, but it works, and works well.
And here comes the but.
While the film is well written and often stylishly directed, the film still has a myriad of problems relating to the fact that it was created by eighteen-year-olds. The actors are obviously friends of the directors, and while they get their lines out, they rarely do it with anything beyond basic competence.
The sound, while cleverly designed, is often poorly balanced, and two actors in the same scene had wildly varying sound levels on more than one occasion.
More interesting is that fact that they seemed to be unable to obtain female actors. The one time a girl is onscreen for an extended period, she’s so masked in darkness I started to suspect she was one of the other guys in a wig, with an overly loud ADR-job supplying the female voice.
And finally, some of the directorial choices are just sort of unfortunate. In particular, there’s an extended scene that takes place entirely in an Internet chatroom. With no voice-over. We’re watching people type, and reading the screen, and just hoping the scene will end. Along the same lines, five minutes could be cut out of the movie by moving some of the voice-over on top of scenes that contain something other than a spooling tape recorder.
So here’s the dilemma of the critic – am I impressed by their vision extending well beyond that of the average eighteen-year-old? Do I let the problems of the film slide because everyone in the film is on the tail end — or just out of — high school?
This film deserves to earn its rating, and I’m going to let it. Ranju and Sanjit Majumdar have created an intriguing film, one worth seeing. And while it may only be a good film, in the coming years there’s a strong possibility they’ll put out a very good one.
Watch for it.