By J. Carlos Menjivar
Made under the auspices of a 10,000 Euro budget and created over a five year span, Beyond the Bridge is a film that many low-budget filmmakers strive to achieve in look and enticing content. This film is a case study in visionary and talented film making galvanized to create a work that has both the look of a studio feature and the frugal and captivating soul of an indie film.
Marla Singer (Maya Schenk) is a traumatized photographer/art student returning home to Switzerland after two years of studying abroad. However, her return is bittersweet, the death of her parents– under mysterious circumstances– continues to plague the young artist. One night she decides to throw a party as a coping mechanism of sorts, but things end up topsy turvy for Marla when she ends up high on Pentagol pills, which, as she later finds out, causes hallucinations. However, her hallucinations are too close to home and feel strangely familiar yet completely unsettling. She awakens in what appears to be a black trash bag, a motif that continues to stalk and haunt her physically and mentally, and wanders through dark passageways and an eerie bridge.
What writer and director Daniel P. Schenk accomplishes in his film and what makes it so effective is the film’s tenacious subjective perspective. Marla is a complete unreliable narrator, leaving the audience at odds with the content of the film. Schenk‘s direction guides us through Marla’s nightmarish visions that keep coming back to the same locale– the bridge. The visions that continue to pervade the film, and Marla, are dark and gritty, almost indecipherable. They appear as something that is less concrete in reality and something that is more attributed to a rugged and damaged terrain of the subconscious plagued by thoughts of guilt, anguish, and uncertainty. Nothing is ever what it seems with Marla’s reality, her hallucinations constantly clash with her mind in an attempt to unearth and usurp the truth of her tortured pain.
Schenk‘s film is a finely directed imported micro-budget trip that is engaging and thought provoking and will have you questioning the film’s unstable reality throughout. Kudos goes to the film’s talented lead Maya Schenk who carries the film with reserve that never gives away the film’s twists along the way, discovering the truth through her performance at the same moment the audience does. How much of her visions are influenced by the Pentagol drug and what is merely the result of a mind that has simply gone unhinged? Both director and actress make the nature of truth incredibly difficult through their talent, but makes for a phenomenally engaging experience.
The film questions the perception of truth while at the same time investigating the effects of trauma on the psyche in a strange inquest of the mind that is dark and abstract. Beyond the Bridge is at times beautifully and visually sumptuous and in other instances unsettling and defiantly avant garde and challenging. It is a visceral and memorable sensory experience that is fascinating as it is complex.
The award winning Beyond the Bridge makes its German cinema release debut April 22. You can pre-order the film on the official site. Amazon Video and iTunes availability coming soon.