Flat outstretched upon a mound
Of earth I lie; I press my ear
Against its surface and I hear
Far off and deep, the measured sound
Of heart that beats within the ground.
And with it pounds in harmony
The swift, familiar heart in me.
They pulse as one, together swell,
Together fall; I cannot tell
My sound from earth’s, for I am part
Of rhythmic, universal heart.
For all the pain you suffered, my mama. For all the torment of your past and future years, my mama. For all the anguish this picture of pain will cause you. For the unspeakable mystery that brings good fathers and sons into the world and lets a mother watch them tear at each other’s throats. For the Master of the Universe, whose suffering world I do not comprehend. For dreams of horror, for nights of waiting, for memories of death, for the love I have for you, for all the things I remember, and for all the things I should remember but have forgotten, for all these I created this painting—an observant Jew working on a crucifixion because there was no aesthetic mold in his own religious tradition into which he could pour a painting of ultimate anguish and torment.
― Chaim Potok, My Name Is Asher Lev
She dreamed of driving off bridges: into a lake beneath some twisting highway of her youth, into the reservoir on the country road to home, into the San Francisco Bay. Sometimes, she drove off those bridges alone, sometimes with her long-dead mother. And sometimes too with her baby boy in a car seat in the back…
There is pain and struggle in life that is universal. How can art help us to approach these things differently?
Brent Bonacorso has directed videos for Elton John (Home Again) and Katy Perry (Unconditionally) as well as numerous commercials. Technically stunning and innovative, as well as emotionally charged, his signature style is filled with striking images, bright and dreamy, set in imaginative narratives that sparkle with magic realism. He is able to use the absurd to get at truths that a more logical approach shies away from. His jaw-dropping short film West of the Moon is no exception.
Video via Brent Bonacorso on Vimeo
This film began as a documentary project. One hundred children were interviewed and asked to speak of their dreams. As Bonacorso worked through the interviews, he was moved to look inward and to create a film that would touch on universal themes and explore dreamscape as an alternate reality that coexists with our own. He used green screen technology to create this dreamscape and found a talented lead actor, veteran Jacob Witkin, to lend the right mix of humor and gravity to the piece. What resulted was West of the Moon, which, like most dreams, is rich with symbolism and understanding that “real life” doesn’t often exhibit.
I am particularly moved by the image of the heart. Our hero, or at least his alter ego, has been sent off to war and is wounded not by the enemy, but by a bullet from his own gun that circles the entire Earth and returns to pierce him. It is his own violence that destroys his heart, which his captors replace with a hand grenade. He tries to live softly and safely so that the fragile grenade will not explode, putting pillows under his feet on the stairs, soaking in his tub and shutting out the world. He is horrified when his grief at losing his lover causes him to cough up the pin to the grenade, and goes so far as to send his pet monkey, dubiously raised from a seed, in through his ear in a vain attempt to replace the pin. In the end it is not his own heart, but the heart of his lost love that he must heal. This involves risking his own life by allowing himself to feel again, which may make his heart explode.
None of this is logical, but we can relate to it emotionally by virtue of the dream images used. If we live long enough, we will all wound ourselves in life. We will experience time in which we harden our hearts to escape and override the pain and time in which we must allow that heart of stone to melt and beat again. The absurdist and childlike approach of West of the Moon helps coat the allegory, and by extension, our own experiences, with humor. It is a story that heals. Bravo!
West of the Moon
Winner of Best Short film @ Santa Barbara International Film Festival
Winner of Best Short film @ Aspen Shortsfest
Winner of Best Short film @ Rushes Soho Shorts Festival
Winner of Best Short film @ Carmel International Film Festival
Winner of Best Short film @ Florida International Film Festival.
Official Selection @ St. Louis Film Festival
Official Selection @ Palm Springs Film Festival
Official Selection @ Milwaukee International Film Festival
Official Selection @ Worldwide Short Film Festival
Official Selection @ Atlanta International Film Festival
Official Selection @ Gold Coast International Film Festival
Official Selection @ Maui International Film Festival
Official Selection @ LA Shortsfest
Starring Jacob Whitkin, Michael Garbe, Amber Noelle, Christopher Tomaselli, and Michael Galvin
Produced by Thom Fennessey
Cinematography by Tarin Anderson
Music by Devotchka
A Collaboration Factory production
The need to make music, and to listen to it, is universally expressed by human beings. I cannot imagine, even in our most primitive times, the emergence of talented painters to make cave paintings without there having been, near at hand, equally creative people making song. It is, like speech, a dominant aspect of human biology.
Synkroniciti is fond of Lewis Thomas. We’ve quoted him before here and again here.