Paul Green (Chris Pflueger) is home alone one night when he gets a visit from the mysterious Dan (Chopper Bernet). Paul concludes that Dan is out soliciting donations for his organization, referred to as “the Group,” and invites him in for some idle chitchat and, eventually, a donation before sending him on his way. Except Dan won’t leave and, utilizing an oft-repeated sentiment of “can you give more?”, proceeds to psychologically hold Paul hostage in his own home. Dan says he only wants to help Paul, but why he wants to help, or what that help is and how the Group is involved, is a constantly complicating mystery. And then things get all the more intense when Paul turns the mental tables on Dan.
JP Allen’s Belief is not going to be the easiest film for casual audiences to swallow. Taking place predominantly in one room with only two characters on screen, you’re asking quite a bit from said audience to stick with the film all the way through, especially if it’s a feature. You either need one incredible location, a brilliant story, some engaging acting, or all three.
To that point, the location of a single, sparsely-dressed room is not the most impressive or inspiring, so Belief didn’t get the trifecta, but the story is just interesting enough, with the right amount of mindfuckery, to keep you interested for the duration, and the acting is additionally above average, making the entire experience that much better.
While I didn’t always follow the logic behind the chess game playing out between Dan and Paul, I nonetheless stayed engaged throughout, with credit due to Chopper Bernet and Chris Pflueger for managing that feat almost solely on their own performances. Both manage to play powerful manipulator and weak victim in equal measure, depending on how the tale twists, that you’re sucked into a narrative of ever-changing power dynamics. In the end, I don’t know who was telling the truth, why or what the overall point of the experience was, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it.
If anything, I wish the film would’ve been blessed with a better camera, though being originally released in 2007, perhaps the pro-sumer pickings were not as quality as they now. The DSLRs of today, for example, with their prime lenses and HD capabilities, would allow a simple visual change that would easily be that subtle improvement to put this over the top. As it is, with the limitations of the equipment involved, you never get to fully divorce yourself from the idea that you’re watching a film. With something a bit better looking, I think it would be extremely easy to find yourself wrapped up with the tale, as if you were hiding in the corner of the room.
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