While he has no memory of his past, John Doe tries to build his future with his wife and their soon to be child. The past always has a way of creeping up on us and soon John finds himself taking the lives of men for the sake of revenge. But who's revenge? Is it his own or is it for a woman he doesn't remember?
Art films are probably one of the finickiest styles of cinema: They are either great or terrible. Rarely do you find one that walks the neutral line of being, "only okay." The other side of the coin is they are also, usually, personal experiences when viewing them: one person will hate it while another one loves it. Example: A number of people loved "Begotten" and talked about how the movie gave them nightmares and haunted them. Me, I want nothing more than to beat these people to death with their own shoes for liking such an unbelievably shitty movie. A bit extreme and silly to have an opinion like that but I do hate "Begotten" that much. So that brings me to "Burning Inside" - a movie that has received high accolades since it's been released and even I admit that I was captivated by the trailer. Shame the excitement from the trailer didn't carry over into the actual movie.
"Burning Inside" is a movie that combines a brutal revenge story that's buried within minimalism storytelling and directing, with German expressionist aesthetics. John Doe is a man who wakes up from a coma with no memory and slowly rebuilds his life to levels of normalcy. His sanity comes crashing down when he moves back to a home that calls to him and his past begins to creep into his present.
Again, "Burning Inside" is a movie where the ideas and the core concept is solid. The finally product, however, felt like it failed to live up to the expectations. Mostly because "Burning Inside" is a movie that becomes lost in its own eccentricity: it didn't feel so much like an arthouse movie as much as it felt like a movie that wanted to be an arthouse movie. That's a bit of a harsh statement because I think Nathan Wann did have an eye for framing the shots and overall it is stylistic. Actually watching it, most of the scenery and the overall execution of the movie felt like it was being eccentric for the sake of being eccentric.
Arthouse movies tend to be slow moving films, so for me, having an attention span isn't the issue when it comes to watching these movies. However it does become a problem when scenes are unnecessarily dragged out - these moments are usually left to key scenes with artistic films. Things that are designed to get to the viewer and make you think. Watch an Andrey Tarkosvskiy movie sometime if you want to understand this type of cinematography. In "Burning Inside" this setup, this style doesn't work because everything is drawn out. Even the mundane moments are drawn out; like John mowing the lawn and fixing the lawn mower. It has no relation to the character or anything that is going on yet we have to spend an extended period of time watching something like this. People can have all the artistic and creativity excuses for doing something like that all they want, but at the end of the day, it ruins the crucial scenes that should be drawn out. It causes those moments to lose their importance and emotional significance because it's being abused. Like how everyone has abused Trier's handheld style from the Dogme movement.
That's where my biggest issue comes from with "Burning Inside". People can call this daring, raw, captivating, bleak, etc. all they want, but for me, at the end of the day. This is another movie that attempts arthouse but doesn't get there because it's trying too hard - it doesn't let it come naturally. Make the picture grainy with high contrast all you want, you still need to be able to tell a story while being "creativity". You can't simply say, "Well, arthouse films do this so I'll do it too." More thought needs to be put into it than that you have to have reasons if you're going to use a non-linear method of storytelling because you need to know how the audience is going to receive the story and the emotions. You can be weird and abstract for the sake of being weird and abstract but you can't do that with a movie that has a reason, a point, or else it looks like your doing nothing more than emulating.
The reason I brought up "Begotten" earlier is because "Burning Inside" reminded me a lot of that movie and not because of the grainy black and white style. They're both movies that wanted to be more than they actually were. Again, other people will obviously not see this movie the way I did but instead see it as a brilliant piece. To me, and I think most people versed in arthouse cinema, will see it as nothing but another title that's trying. I certainly hope Nathan Wrann continues on with art films because we need more in this world of senseless and shitty movies. I just hope he'll allow himself to naturally progress and grow as a filmmaker and not try so hard to be what people think is arthouse.