The Unity of All Things
The Unity of All Things will screen in the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s series ‘Friends With Benefits: An Anthology of Four New American Filmmakers.’ To find out more about the series visit the ‘Friends With Benefits’ website.
The lines separating mainstream, independent, and arthouse films are often blurred (especially around awards season). But to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart, I might not be able to definitively summarize each category, but I know what I’m watching when I see it. This is particularly true when it comes to arthouse films. As far from the mainstream as possible and certainly well-removed from the indie scene, an arthouse film can do more than challenge a viewer; it can defy basic understanding. Such is the case with The Unity of All Things, a film as arthouse as they come, from the writing/directing team of Alexander Carver and Daniel Schmidt.
There’s very little plot to speak of, but the film is no less dense. It begins on a scientific level, as its physicist protagonist/matriarch faces the inevitable shuttering of her particle accelerator and the quest to build another. Still keeping physics heavy in the forefront, but with philosophical musings injected (“Knowledge of the universe does not change reality. The pursuit of that knowledge does.”), the film then plays on relationships between and among the protagonist, two other female scientists who work for her, and her twin sons (the sons, meant to be portrayed as beautiful boys, are played by girls). Those sons begin an exploration of their own sexuality as they engage in an incestuous relationship with each other. Beautiful visuals (the film was shot on Super 8 and Super 16) get mixed with monotonous scenes (meant to be viewed as art rather than consumed as film, I suppose), and the title card appears halfway into picture.
The Unity of All Things not only refuses to be pigeonholed into a traditional genre, it defies even being called a film. Less a motion picture than a piece of moving art, Carver and Schmidt’s feature debut epitomizes the notion of something being an acquired taste.