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“THE INCIDENT (EL INCIDENTE)” (Fantastic Fest Review)

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“I wrote this film to conjure up my own fear of dying,” Ingmar Bergman once said of THE SEVENTH SEAL, his peerless exploration of mortality, faith, and the towering, immutable mysteries of existence—and by the time we reach the revelatory final third of the harrowing and profound Mexican mindbender THE INCIDENT, wherein the philosophical speculations and meditations hinted at throughout seemingly separate parallel stories at last intertwine into an disquieting (yet strangely uplifting) denouement, it is difficult to believe director Isaac Ezban did not have a similar goal in mind.

THE INCIDENT follows two very different sets of individuals living in two very different environments who nevertheless find themselves trapped in repeating loops of an identical nature—i.e. a pair of small time criminal brothers and a pursuing cop cannot escape nine floors of an infinite apartment building staircase; a bickering “blended” family drive an endless road to a vacation rental perpetually out of reach.

Each group suffers a death in its midst and hears a great rumbling explosion moments before being locked into their respective closed circuits, but no crossover between them is otherwise immediately apparent. Though every inanimate object is restored daily to the state in which it was first discovered, the prisoners themselves do not enjoy that same rejuvenation. They remain frightened, aging mortals marooned on an island of frozen, unchanging time.

Think an ultra-dark remake of GROUNDHOG DAY produced by Damon Lindelof and directed by the ghost of Rod Serling, and you’re in the thematic neighborhood

As the film documents the next few decades via alternating slice of life segments, each of these captives gains his or her own intimate familiarity with the unchanging “where”—adapting to inexplicable exile; establishing routines within extremely limited circumstances; hoarding “repeating” items in sometimes ingenious, sometimes psychotic ways; maintaining (and, also, failing to maintain) traumatized psyches; evolving new methods of worship, of scavenging, of waste disposal, and, for one erstwhile couple, of, uh, making love. (Ever wonder whether you would have a more visceral reaction to plastic water bottle-encased human turds stacked sky high or soulless, animalistic geriatric fucking? THE INCIDENT will help you solve that riddle!)

The “why,” on the other hand, remains elusive—as it no doubt likewise does and will for the vast majority of homo sapiens who now or in the future bother to ponder the dueling vagaries and unique, improbable potentialities of humanity.

Of course, as far as the world of the film is concerned, Ezban stands deity-esque. The filmmaker makes the most of these accompanying powers, ushering us alongside his characters into an alternate dimension where we can, for a time, explore the purgatories and hells our collective and individual misguided actions, grudges, and moral frailties may be creating for ourselves—or, perhaps, in a more transcendent, tangential sense, creating for innocent scapegoat avatars existing within our minds or out in the Great Beyond or ensconced in some other place or idea so far outside human conception we can’t even dream it, never mind provide a name.

If that encapsulation sounds a little vague…you’re welcome. THE INCIDENT is a film that should be experienced with as little pre-filtering as possible ahead of its flowering epiphanies and string-theory-meets-pop-psychology run at enlightenment.

Sure, the resolution is ultimately kind of haphazard and messy. At times, it can feel as if Ezban is walking backwards from concept into story. But these are minor quibbles in the face of a film that, in an inventive and singular way, encourages viewers to ponder one’s life and responsibilities amidst the truly odd interlocking pieces of the universe.

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About the author
Shawn Macomber http://www.stopshawnmacomber.com

The ravings of noted South Florida pug wrangler Shawn Macomber have
appeared in Decibel, Magnet, Reason, Maxim, Radar, Shroud, and the
Wall Street Journal, amongst other fine and middling publications. He
also hosts the podcast Into the Depths and pens the metal-lit column
Tales From the Metalnomicon for Decibel magazine.

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