Jeremiah Kipp’s stylish short Contact renders family drama and drug experimentation with the suspense and dread of a demonic possession film.
Contact packs two narratives into ten minutes. In the first, a dour older couple anxiously set the table for three, giving the placement of their cutlery as much attention as spoon-bender Criss Angel. Their expressions and the ominous score suggest preparations for a wake rather than a meal. The second narrative follows a young couple as they visit a drug dealer, score a crack-like substance, then trip, an experience that gives the woman horrific hallucinations (flesh-tearing is involved). The two stories join at the end.
Black and white cinematography, disorienting editing, and sparse dialogue lend the film the atmospheric, uncanny quality of a dream (or nightmare). Brief glimpses of other action interrupt both stories, and make it unclear which narrative unfolds first. Are we seeing flashbacks, foreshadowing, or the stages of a repetitive cycle that mirror the contours of substance abuse?
Kipp and cinematographer/editor Dominick Sivilli make the most of the black and white, widescreen format. Scenes are blocked beautifully; the camera tracks, tilts, bobs, rolls, and lingers; shots dissolve; and the silvery, high-contrast images at times approach abstraction. The cast matches the production. Zoe Daelman Chlanda excels as the young woman; despite uttering only a few words, and often in extreme close-up, she alternately conveys vulnerability, confidence, and abject fear.
Don’t think that because it makes drug use horrific, Contact is a polemic. Indeed, the sobering moral of the film seems to be this: contact (sexual, psychological, familial) is the ultimate drug—longed for, dreaded, indulged in, and regretted like any addictive substance. Judge for yourself; you can watch Contact online.
Contact won Kipp directing duties for feature film The Sadist, due out in 2011. Sivilli again handles editing and photography. Fans take note: this one’s in full color, and features a pitchfork-wielding psycho (Tom Savini) suffering from post–traumatic stress disorder.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong online. Please consider a donation to support our work as an independent publisher devoted to the arts and humanities. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where advertising no longer covers our costs. We need your help to keep PopMatters publishing. Thank you.