Karen Young in TWO GATES OF SLEEP, a film by Alistair Banks Griffin. Picture courtesy Factory 25. All rights reserved.
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Two Gates of Sleep (2010/2011)
Opened: 04/01/2011 Limited
|reRun Theater||04/01/2011 - 04/07/2011||7 days|
Trailer: Click for trailer
Somewhere on the Mississippi-Louisiana border, brothers Jack and Louis prepare for their mother's imminent death. Their communication limited to glances, they hunt a gorgeous animal, cook a special meal and share last moments of quiet intimacy with the woman who bore them. Once she succumbs, they ignore society's expectations and undertake an arduous journey to bury her along the riverbank. Ants swarm in the dirt, trees form a green cathedral and the brothers step deeper into the muddy river. This visual meditation on nature, death and tradition paints a shattering portrait of a family overcoming extraordinary circumstances to honor a final request.
Jack and Louis know their mother is dying. They brace themselves for the end hunting down a magnificent animal for a special meal, doting on her, bringing her to her favorite places, trying to postpone the inevitable which comes early one morning. Shunning societal conventions, the brothers go about fulfilling her final request: a journey upriver to bury her.
The story begins with a extended hunt where we meet the brothers Conroy, Jack & Louis. We learn very quickly that most communication in this world occurs in looks and glances. There is tension between the brothers from the beginning. Louis the oldest of the two is darkly envious of Jack hunting skill. It comes naturally to him and there is not much more Louis can do but pray after each botched hunt and animal he wounds. Jack is his 'mother's son' and cares for her intensely when she suffers from dementia caused by an unexplained condition. When she is calm, they take long quiet walks in the forest. Jack & Louis both sense the end is near. And it comes one quiet afternoon. Jack discovers her body out in some tall grass not far from their home. A series of encounters begin as they have to go through the motions of dealing with her body. The family doctor is called and chastised for trying to help. Though it is never directly refereed to, Jack and Louis both know her last wishes. They begin about collecting wood to construct a coffin and preparing her now decaying body. Early one morning they set out into the forest, the burden of carrying the weight across an unfriendly landscape is excruciating. Finally they reach a creek running through the dense foliage which makes travel less difficult. Jack & Louis begin to come out of their individual mourning and communicate with one another in their strange, cryptic way. The creek outlets into a larger river. The journey becomes increasingly difficult. Something is happening to Louis. They turn a bend and the coffin Louis had so carefully constructed begins to sink. The reek is unbearable and the boys become sick. Later that night Louis, exhausted, driven to madness, attacks Jack, strangling him and pushing him underwater. He awakes and Louis is gone. He continues on to bury her alone.
The film is heavily focused on character and unique landscape of a niche area of the Louisiana/Mississippi border. Using Faulkner's As I Lay Dying as a jumping off point, the story focuses on a rarely seen part of the American south with customs and cultures steeped in ancient tradition and eccentricities. It is not, however, intended as a commentary on rural poverty, but a portrait of a family at the edge of society dealing with extraordinary circumstances and loss.
The single most important thing for me in regards to art and cinema is to craft a completely engrossing, expressionistic experience for the viewer. Its about having a visceral reaction. When setting out on the task of creating a first feature I was most interested in crafting a tale about regeneration and transcendentalism of the earth and spirit: fleetingness of the body, consumption, decay, bliss. Writing the script and ultimately making the film, became a search for finding meaning in the cycler nature of our world and discovering ways to express these ideas without being trite.
I wasn't so interested in the logical structure of a dramatic story but about emotional tension and environmental atmosphere. That said, i was looking back in history towards the early roots of the most basic aspects of customs and story storytelling. The reverence for death and the rituals of burial are one of the things that fascinates me most about ancient civilizations. You can glean so much more about their true spiritual nature and beliefs by analyzing this than any scripture. I like to think that Jack and Louis were living in some kind of dark age that just happens to be contemporary.
--Alistair Banks Griffin