Should cinema be enjoyable? Does a film need a plot? Can a film make you have an ontological migrane and still classify as good? The latest film from lo-fi auteur Brian Mcguire does not care about any answers...
Window Licker (Or ‘WiNdOw LiCkEr’) tells the story of Ben Wild as he descends into a hellish madness after planning to meet up with an old school friend but another person arriving in his place. Yet even that is too much of a simple, linear chronology to explain what happens on screen – the film is basically a manic and paranoid sketch show focusing on Ben’s increasingly crushing paranoia that could easily give viewers an aneurysm if they lean to close to the screen…
The film is essentially a collage of Ben’s mental mid-life crisis told from a semi-objective view-point; mixed with footage of a violent reality TV show that he reluctantly watches; mixed with long footage of an freaky arcade game that he loves; mixed with live-streaming internet porn channels that he is obsessed with... Along the way he also has a visit from his motor-mouth sister and has a long running battle with a pushy debt collector.
This film is definitely not for everyone. It is basically a masterclass in not giving a shit about continuity, misé-en-scene, the 180° rule, match-editing, narrative arcs, or inciting incidents. Filmmaker, writer and star Brian Mcguire could be one of the punkest filmmakers working today – he is fiercely independent and pumps out nearly a film a year… (even the film’s website is confrontational)
Window Licker feels like an insane cross between Darren Aronofsky’s π and something by Derek Jarman, but filmed entirely on digital instead of film. Everything that Brian does is digital, his conversations are on Skype, his sexuality is on video chatrooms, his entertainment is through video games… The ending of the film is a slap to the face to our current digital culture, but the film wouldn’t exist without it so it’s not exactly damning.
The film is proudly low budget, using natural lighting, locations and costumes – yet the inventiveness of the aesthetic and narrative actually give the cast an opportunity to really perform. The sequence with Nina Millin as Ben’s sister Alda is not only incredibly funny, but also breathtaking in its relentlessness (it has to be seen, in context, to be believed.) Although it is a simple idea, it is executed beautifully and made my skin crawl.
If the visuals and the tense narrative (a psychotic episode) weren’t enough to freak you out then the music will push you over the edge. Much like Aronofsky’s π, Window Licker has a pulsating electronic soundtrack that is mind blowing if experienced in a cinema.
Basically, in a world of tentpole summer blockbusters from Marvel and Disney, Window Licker is unlikely to attract a huge audience – yet I doubt that anyone involved in the project cares. It is easily the most authentic and original film I have seen all year, and it gives a real insight into the way that we use the modern media in the Internet age. It is definitely not for everyone, but if you’re feeling brave then I recommend you enter the world of Ben Wild and let his digital anxiety freak out your senses.