Every once and a while I stop and wonder what my brain would be like if I didn’t watch all these films. There’s a vulnerability to being open to other people’s artistic whims and creativity, and sometimes being a part of their vision can feel damaging. I mean, how much can you fit in your head without being affected, right? Who would I have been if my appetite for movies wasn’t so insatiable… and sometimes random.
It’s on my mind, because in watching Seeking Wellness: Suffering in Four Movements, I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of damage I was doing to my own sensitivity as a human by participating, passively, in the voyeuristic depravity unleashed on screen. And maybe that was the point.
Seeking Wellness is a challenging experience. It warns you right off the bat that you’re not going to be seeing a film, and even the DVD case contains a box proclaiming:
SEEKINGWELLNESS is a conceptual video cycle intended to be experienced from beginning to end without interruption. If you choose to experience SEEKINGWELLNESS in another manner you will not yield maximum emotional stimulation. Please watch SEEKINGWELLNESS in its entirety without pause.”
The key word in the above is “experience,” because that is exactly what goes on here. You do not watch Seeking Wellness, you experience it, and whether you want to do so is entirely on your shoulders. Me, I went through the experience and… I don’t know.
The film starts with what appears to be security camera footage of a burn ward, or doctor’s office. Normal day of business, and the screen blinks from camera to camera in a neverending loop. No dialogue, just camera to camera, over and over again. It almost relaxes you, until two men in masks show up and things get violent… in small bits. Since the cameras keep cycling, you don’t see what’s going on until the loop cycles back around. It’s brutal, and presented so nonchalantly, it actually feels like you’re really watching security footage… except, what does that make you? Why aren’t you doing something?
The next section deals with easily the most creepy family slideshow narration I’ve ever heard, before segueing nicely into one of the more awkwardly deviant Christmases I’ve ever experienced, even though the deviance is more from what you’ve heard in the narration, and your own fear of where this segment could be going (and after the security footage opening, whatever you can imagine for the next few segments could happen… even when it doesn’t).
The final two parts of Seeking Wellness are interwoven as a university project presentation, and an in-depth look at one of the presentations, a documentary about a heartbroken man who sets out to give himself cancer.
Seeking Wellness explores numerous themes, and at times I felt like I just didn’t “get” what was going on. And I think that’s okay, because I’m also of the opinion that just because you think a message is being delivered, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that is true. Sometimes a lack of confidence in your own interpretation can lead to a belief that there’s more there than there is. That said, Seeking Wellness covers various degrees of healing amid horrible contexts in each segment, with those in care being victimized early, to a family history leading to a man scarred for life, and then another man trying to heal his heart via a cancerous tumor. What those segments really say beneath the surface is open to debate. For me, I just kept wondering, again, how much damage I had sustained.
This is challenging cinema. It’s in your face, and it travels through realms and scenarios that most of us don’t even want to imagine exist. Again, you don’t watch this, you experience it. If you’re open for a bit of a battle, it’s worth the journey, but it will not be an easy one. You’ve been warned.
This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.