The Fourth Dimension: Not Worth Understanding
by: Kate Messinger
October 21, 2012
Sometimes we need film to take our minds out of reality and into another realm, we need this visual representation to push us out of our comfort zones into a place where time and space exists differently than every day. Good films can teach us philosophy in a way that books and lectures sometimes fail to, bringing the audience to a different time or place or emotion of the visual without ever physically moving us, manipulating our brains into a new way of thinking and bringing us to another state of perception.
The much anticipated tri-directed film The Fourth Dimension, produced by VICE and Grolsch World, combines three short films by the prolific Harmony Korine, Alexsei Fedorchenko and Jan Kwiecinski exploring the mind bending theme of the fourth dimension. The best of these type of perception altering movies are ones that show and don’t tell, but The Fourth Dimension, which was released for free on YouTube and will be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, feels more like an intro to philosophy student’s film essay than an artist’s representation of an idea.
Each short film, though nicely shot and individual to each director’s style, seems to dwell on the idea of the fourth dimension rather than their vision of it. Like most philosophical topics, the more you think about it, the more confusing it tends to become. The three shorts accomplish what a late night drug induced conversation about time and space usually accomplishes, with each director asking, mouth full of Dorritos and gummy bears: “But, really, what is time?”
The movie starts out with some text (maybe it’s a letter to the directors from the fourth dimension, but presumably to give the audience some background on what the directors are trying to accomplish) reading: “it (the film) needs to blur the line between what is real and what is fake. We must never know the truth.” But none of the films bend reality much more than introducing a confusing topic and hoping the audience, in reality, will stick with it to impress their friends who couldn’t make it to the end.
The first of the films, “The Lotus Community Center” was probably the most accredited of the shorts because director Harmony Korine is known for films like Being John Malcovitch that succeed in expanding perception beyond reality. It tells the story of Val Kilmer, playing himself though far from his “real” self, giving a bizarre-for-the-sake-of-being-bizarre self help speech to a roller rink full of down and out people who worship him. He jumps around from topic to topic, explaining the fourth dimension as cotton candy and telling everyone they are lucky to be alive and that velvet killed Elvis. These scenes are inter-cut with Kilmer riding around on a small bicycle with a possible love interest in cornrows, who is played by Korine’s wife, and playing video games with similar sound effects as those that accompany his speech. Kilmer’s character doesn’t seem so far off from reality, he is known to be a method actor who blurs the line of reality and fiction in his own life, but the story isn’t interesting enough to care if it is real.
The second and third films are less entertaining and even more of a stretch to understand. Alexy Fedorchenko’s Russian time travel sci-fi is predictable and again prone to those black hole philosophy questions, i.e. ”How do you know my today is not your yesterday?” and ”But what is yesterday?”. Jan Kwiecinski’s story, “Fawns,” follows disillusioned youth on a rampage and seems to only exist as an outlet for the costume designer. Luckily the films can be watched for free, and fast forwarded freely, since the headache of understanding the representations of the fourth dimension aren’t worth the money, time or space. It would be more fun to ponder these questions ourselves, late night with munchies, then have to try to understand what these director’s haven’t grasped themselves.