The 4th Dimension (2006) / Drama-Mystery

MPAA Rated: Not rated, probably PG-13 for adult themes
Running Time: 82 min.

Cast: Louis Morabito, Miles Williams, Karen Peakes, Kate LaRoss, Suzanne Inman, Louis Lippa, Sharon Lambert-Ryan
Tom Mattera, Dave Mazzoni
Screenplay: Tom Mattera, Dave Mazzoni
Review published March 17, 2007

Louis Morabito stars as Jack Emitni (backwards "in time", get it?), who spends most of his days in a workshop fixing antiques for demanding customers.  His latest project is an old mantle clock that a woman is very insistent that he fix in short order, although shortly after, strange events begin to transpire.  As he attempts to fix the clock, he becomes obsessed with fixing time itself, which he is sure is something that can be manipulated, reversed, and adjusted -- if only he could figure out how.  Through a series of vivid dreams, Jack is able to connect to a universe that is much different than the one he lives in daily, and in which may hold the key to changing his reality.

An impressive film debut from writer-directors Tom Mattera and Dave Mazzoni, who both show a mastery of how to deliver on atmosphere and mystery in a slowly absorbing, fascinating fashion.   Effectively utilizing a very small budget (approx. $75k), The 4th Dimension overcomes meager resources through professional quality black & white photography, eerie lighting, and a terrific use of sound.  It should be mentioned that this is a very esoteric film, not told in continuity and often shifting back and forth between reality and fantasy, and it might necessitate a second viewing in order to gain a fuller understanding of just what's going on.  Certainly, this mix of art and philosophy is a "limited appeal" proposition, but it definitely will be of interest to those who like obscure, enigmatic, and intellectually challenging films.  If you liked Kafka-esque flicks like Barton Fink and Pi, you'll probably like this one.

While there is much to admire about The 4th Dimension, most of it comes through the technical specs, rather than the abstruse story at the heart of the film. Mattera and Mazzoni have a sharp expressionist flair, working well with cinematographer Daniel Watchulonis in crafting a visual standard that rivals most others of its class.  It is a bleak, emotionally-stagnant film, intentionally so, but the plotting is sparse and slow to develop at times.  It's no surprise that this feature-length film has been beefed up from a short film length in its original incarnation.  The ending in particular seems to be only tangential to what the film is really about, going for a resonance that doesn't quite fit in with the nature of time, place, dimension, and belonging that resides in the story of Jack's desolate existence. 

Ultimately, how much reward you find within the confines of this moody, hypnotic piece will vastly depend on you, the viewer, and how much you're willing o overlook in order to be entertained by the challenging construction of the film's symbolic narrative.  You'll either be absorbed by the many time pieces on the screen, or the one wrapped around your wrist.  Patience is definitely a virtue, and in The 4th Dimension, it has its rewards.

Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo