Flower is filled with abstract images that may or may not represent what the film’s narrator is talking about, kind of like those ink blots that psychologists use. Usually, these are meant to be seen without external suggestion. This is so that your interpretation of them says more about you than it does about the random blots. In this case there is a rather hypnotic tale about a ravenously hungry bear being spun while the images unfold. So the images, whether they are meant to be random or not, form into something that is not so random at all.
The tale of a ravenous bear who can’t stop eating sounds like an old legend, though I can’t be sure if it is or not. Lew Palter, who narrates it, has one of those voices. You know the kind I mean, one that’s perfect for storytelling. He sounds half-man, half-wind. Like all good horror stories, this doesn’t need to be scary to be effective. Ominous lines like: “The more he eats, the more hungry he gets…” can chill you as completely as the sound of rattling chains in a graveyard.
I liked Flower. It’s experimental, but only in the execution. At its heart, it’s as old as storytelling itself. All that’s missing to complete the illusion are its viewers sitting around a campfire while wolves howl in the distance. I much enjoyed watching it. It didn’t feel like I was sitting there and passively being told a story. Instead, it almost felt like I was participating in it. I liked that very much. I enjoy art that allows you to contribute a little bit.
There is a very ancient and very Native American feel to this film. The “Peyote Hallucination” look to some of the visuals especially helps to strengthen the sensation that we are being told something secret by a man whose ancestors roamed America long before Europeans first stepped foot on its soil.
Director Naoko Tasaka knows how to pace his work, and does a beautiful job here. At twenty one minutes, with a sparse story and minimalistic “video”, this could have been a huge bore. Yet it’s very engaging and easy to watch. That alone makes it worthy of praise.
Also, let’s not forget the story. Our narrator’s tale is quite pleasurable to listen to. I won’t call it “fun,” but it’s one of those stories like the Tell-Tale Heart or the Turn of the Screw, where fresh dread builds upon the old dread in such a way that when the story ends it feels like a perfectly executed magic trick.
I won’t say this was my favorite film entry in the experimental shorts category of the 2014 Slamdance festival, that wouldn’t be fair or true, but it comes close. It’s certainly one that comes closest to being “my thing” and one that I’d watch more than once.