THE MAN WITH FOUR LEGS: Elegantly Disturbing
With finely tuned performances, The Man With Four Legs is also a visual treat, working within a genre that is often difficult to define.
In a time when mainstream film is choking with remakes, lackluster scripts, and steering clear of anything artistic, it’s such a treat to happen upon a film like this one. The Man With Four Legs is a genre-busting whirlwind of beautiful yet insidious artistry.
The Mysterious Amnesiac
Written, produced and directed by Ed Christmas, this film covers three young, up-and-coming documentary filmmakers as they attempt to film their breakthrough. Angus, (Richard Southgate), the arrogant, contemptible leader of this crew, has been recently tipped off about a man named James Davis, who has experienced a recent head trauma and can’t remember the life he had before. Angus, eager to become famous, quickly latches on to this story, dragging both the indifferent Tom (Daniel Ormorod) and the hesitant Ethan (Terry Sweeney) along for the ride.
The Man With Four Legs marks the film debut of Simon Dobson. With the talent of a seasoned pro, Dobson portrays the passionate, tenderhearted, strange and uncertain, James Davis. Though fully grown, he is able to convey the emotions of a whimsical child. His character keeps a sense of hope, wonder, and fascination alive even when struggling with crippling amnesia. Dobson’s performance is heart-wrenching at times, and I found myself interested in seeing him more than any of the other characters.
The three young filmmakers are adolescent, rude, condescending and insufferable at times. Angus (Southgate) embodies the rampant hubris of the young and privileged. Feigning a mask of benevolence, he will stop at nothing, and exploit anyone, to get the fame and glory he feels he deserves. When hubris meets innocence and trust, disaster is sure to follow.
Film As Art
The cinematography is the indisputable star of this film. Markus J. Ljungberg paints the screen with veritable works of moving art. He is able to create a sense of serenity and comfort unseen in a very long time. He makes photographic art of the most mundane objects, and renders decrepit locations graceful and refined.
At times, we actually feel the sensory experiences of James on his mystifying journey. We’re at the beach with him, floating on the surf and feeling the sand on our hands. We drift in and out of his fleeting memory and linger in what makes him feel free. We almost don’t care to follow the filmmakers on their quest, because we’d rather stay lost in the bliss and allure of the arresting imagery.
Ljungberg‘s inventiveness, combined with the depiction of James by Dobson, is a refreshing, celebratory example of what film should strive to be.
A Genre Unto Itself
The Man With Four Legs is not the thrilling mystery that I think it wants to be. Rather, the film winds through a labyrinth of uncertainty, more exploring the depths of human darkness, than finding a solution to the riddle that is James.
Though a fictional film about a documentary crew, don’t mistake this for one of the deplorable, shaky “found footage” films. This, for the most part, is an artistic symphony. It has elements of A Clockwork Orange, mixed with the beautiful visuals and melodic mystique of 2005’s Pride and Prejudice.
The filmmakers managed to create exquisite beauty even while dealing with mental illness and the malevolence of the human ego. The story, in and of itself, is nothing groundbreaking, but turning it into an unexpected visual piece is. It is labeled a “Black Comedy”, “Drama”, and “Thriller”. In reality, it is all of those and none. Assigning it a known genre simply wouldn’t do it justice.
The beauty of the film might prove to be its biggest obstacle, because the main characters grow into an unwelcome distraction from the pictures we come to crave. It also makes the darkness at the story’s core all the more harsh and disturbing to deal with.
Overall, though, The Man With Four Legs is definitely worth your time, if for no other reason than to finally be able to savor in the art of film; an art that is eminently lost in modern, mainstream cinema.
Would you be willing to harm others, even die, for your art?
The Man With Four Legs releases on March 6, 2017 in the UK.
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