Digital video and improv are two incredibly effective filmmaking techniques. Sadly, they can also be a crutch for lazy filmmaking. I fear that the latter is indicative of Gabriel Fleming’s feature “One Thousand Years.”
“One Thousand Years” follows Maria (Mara Gerstein) as she wades through a bland twentysomething San Francisco existence. She has a crush on Keith (Soren Gray), an emaciated cool kid. There’s no real explanation for the crush, and there’s not much to write home about Keith. Of course, perhaps Fleming is painting Keith as the everyman that some girl falls in love with when they’re young but never end up with.
In the whole Maria/Keith relationship, there is a tiny bit of vengeance to be felt from watching Maria pine for a love and get continuously rejected as “just a friend.” Who hasn’t heard that from a date in high school – right after she accepts your invitation to Homecoming (yet somehow you end up paying for the date anyway).
“One Thousand Years” also has some not-so-subtle lesbian overtones in which Maria’s best friend Emma (Abby Paige) struggles with her desire to be with Maria as more than “just a friend.” The film bookends with Maria and Emma lying on a bed, contemplating the universe.
Such contemplation leads into a substory about two time travelers – one from a thousand years in the past and the other from a thousand years in the future. The travelers are searching for a way to prevent the inevitable millennial apocalypse that threatens to wipe out their respective civilization. In the midst of their search, they find each other – and subsequently procrastinate on preventing the millennial apocalypse.
Forgive me if I seem artistically dense, but I never quite made the connection between the time travelers and Maria’s struggle with love. Was it to juxtapose the fact that lovers two millennia apart can find love, but a single girl in San Francisco comes up short? Was it an attempt by Emma to communicate her true feelings to Maria? Or was it to examine human nature and how it changes – yet remains the same – no matter what millennium you’re from?
Publicity for “One Thousand Years” touts the “documentary” style of shooting that allowed over 100 locations and a spontaneity. However, the documentary style of “One Thousand Years” doesn’t quite work for the timbre of the story. For Spinal Tap yes. Best in Show, of course. Even Drop Dead Gorgeous (while a flimsy movie at best) kept true to the documentary style. “One Thousand Years,” on the other hand, shows no purpose to the style.
At times, it seems that director Fleming is pushing for the look and feel that Soderbergh nailed in Traffic, but instead we are left with lots of dead air, forced and muddled dialogue and bizarre choices of camera angles. Fleming’s desire to capture the spontaneity and unrehearsed feel of the city result in a general sense that he just doesn’t like to sit his butt in a chair, grab a pencil and draw some storyboards.