By Michael Kalafatis (Stoke on Trent)
Directed by Shane Carruth, Starring Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth
Upstream Color is about two characters Kris (Amy Seimetz) and Jeff (Shane Carruth) whose behaviours are affected by a parasite- without them knowing it. These two characters are drawn together because they share similar traumatic background, in which the parasite plays a vital role. We only see when the Thief introduces the parasite to the bloodstream of Kris but we are not certain that the same thing has happened to Jeff we can only assume. Once the parasite invades Kris’s immune system then she abruptly loses any kind of free will and she becomes easily controlled by the Thief, because she looks like she is under a kind of hypnosis, so this way he easily manipulates her and when the parasite is removed she does not have any recollection of encountering the Thief or what he did to her, she just feel like something has change without knowing what.
Shane Carruth is the director, producer, composer, writer, co-editor, cinematographer, composer and playing Jeff, so we realise that Upstream Color is a film by an auteur with a very strong vision and everything we see and hear in the duration of the film has be made solely by Carruth. Shane Carruth has created a film unlike anything ever show on celluloid, a film so perplexing that it will take more than one viewing to really appreciate its use of symbolism and its narrative which progresses in a very hypnotic way. Its desaturated cinematography, which is saturated with muted greys and blues, manages to convey the melancholy and sadness that the film characters feel for most of the duration of the film. The sombre soundtrack is also an important component in creating the right atmosphere for the film and connects its various characters and their separate trajectory. The music score is what makes the editing seem seamless and more poignant and poetic but most importantly the music carries the emotional part of the film, it is its beating heart and everything functions because of it.
Upstream Color is very reminiscent of films by Terrence Malick, especially its cinematography and its poetic depiction of the characters who lead their lives in a very tranquil and sometime carefree way, but there is also elements that are reminiscent of two great auteurs of surrealism Luis Bunuel and David Lynch whose influence is strongly felt, and like most surreal films Upstream Color has so many symbolism that are thought provoking and like all the great surreal films their interpretation will depend on subjective opinion and that is the beauty of any great surreal film that anyone can have their own interpretation and still no one can be wrong as Upstream Color is a film open to interpretation.
Thematically Upstream Color explores the way people cope with past emotional and psychological traumas and how these traumatic experiences can still affect their present daily lives to an unhealthy degree. But it also explores a dysfunctional relationship, a relationship that shows how people cope differently in different situations.