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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Review: Friend of the World

Director: Brian Patrick Butler

Screenplay: Brian Patrick Butler

Year: 2021

After a catastrophic war, an artist finds herself trapped inside a bunker with a military man. Both must work together to survive and find a way out of that place, which holds some surprises that seems to have come straight out of a nightmare.

In the opening scene of “Friend of the World”, a man speaks through the speakers of an old radio, whose voice proposes an entirely crazy idea. At this point, the comment does not seem to be of much importance, but it gains relevance as the movie progresses. In these short seconds, it is clear that this is not a conventional film but that it will move more through the waters of experimental cinema.

After the opening credits appear on top of what seems to be an amateur art film, the film itself begins. The scene presents a massacre, whose images reach the viewer in a high contrast black and white, making the whole scene look more macabre and surreal, reminiscent of the style of "Tetsuo: The Iron Man" shares other similarities. In this same scene, we meet the protagonist Diane Keaton, the survivor of the massacre.

The contrast between black and white serves as an artistic element and has a symbolic value that creates a clear distinction between different aspects of the film. Once Diane manages to get out of the room where the massacre occurred and begins to move through the bunker, she meets Gore, who couldn't be more different from her. While Diane is a black, lesbian, artist-trained woman, Gore is a conservative, military, white man. The rest of the differences and the meaning they have in their enigmatic ending are left as a task for the reader.

As it progresses, the story becomes increasingly bizarre, unfolding like an experimental film, where the director grants himself various licenses to create without worrying about realism. When the protagonists find the first creature, it seems as if they were going to opt for a zombie story, but instead of wanting to eat them, the creature seems to want to merge with them, which leads to remembering "Society", but with much inferior special effects. This idea continues to be explored throughout the film, with the strangest scene taking place in a bathroom (I also leave its enjoyment and interpretation as a task for the reader) and with great relevance in the outcome.

Even with its barely 50 minutes of runtime, which seems much more for all the crazy things it presents, it is evident that the budget was a limitation to which the director and screenwriter Brian Patrick Butler tries to overcome with his script and as its protagonists delivery of the dialogues. Nick Young and Alexandra Slade, who play Gore and Diane, do a good job, but they can't help that, at times, their performances reveal the inexperience that surrounds the film as a whole. 

"Friend of the World" is an experimental film that will not be to everyone's liking. Its unconventional style and crazy ideas may be too foreign for those used to a more conventional cinema. Those who enjoy experimental cinema and can keep their mind open will enjoy the madness that is "Friend of the World." 

"Friend of the World" is available on various streaming services around the world.

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