Haunted by the nightmarish events of her past and unable to accept her position in a society so dismissive of women, Amy (Amy Everson) copes with the everyday horrors of her life through art. Finding even the most trivial social encounters unbearable, she is utterly uncomfortable in her own skin. Capturing her struggles through a series of hazy, color-corrected vignettes, Jason Baker’s melancholy Felt depicts a harrowing reality faced by countless millions of women without offering any solutions to what is shown to be a startlingly-invisible problem.
Felt — informed by the throng of artistically-minded independent films proliferating festivals across the world — relies on performance and direction much more so than it does any form of narrative cohesiveness. Amy offers only sparing details of her traumatic past in an introductory narration before the film spirals into a side-by-side comparison of drunken nights full of lecherous men and tranquil forest scenes featuring the most tasteful dildoed skin suit in recent memory. Distracted by fantasies of dawning her second skin to become a wrathful “superhero,” Amy dreams of making men pay for the oppression of her gender.
An intimate visual style coupled with arresting cinematography and a simple, melodic score define the film, and each perfectly compliment the overall themes of quiet desperation and sadness. Transitioning seamlessly from a smooth handheld to a jarringly-cut steady cam, Baker is able to confide both a sense of listless unease and mental anguish. Intercutting social encounters with Amy’s “excursions” into the wilderness underscores the escapism she uses to deal with an apparently unacceptable world, and her costumes become a sort of mechanism for change within the character’s psyche. A kind of visual metamorphosis, her beginnings with an infantile burlap sack doll head transitioning into an ugly Buffalo Bill face mask (The Silence of the Lambs) depict a woman violently lashing out at her position in life. After finding love with a quietly unassuming boyfriend (played by the talented Kentucker Audley), Amy becomes comfortable as a feminine, katana-wielding crusader. More than just a means to inject an artsy-ambitiousness, Amy’s costumes become a physical manifestation of her ever-changing mental state.
Although unrelentingly bleak and unwilling to propose any solutions to the highlighted problems, Felt does its best to start a conversation that so desperately needs to take place. Honest portrayals of the questionable methods employed by young men to “woo” girls help to enlighten unaware viewers (men) and remove any of the presumed drunken confidences required for such debasement. Common yet incredibly politically incorrect attitudes towards date rape are touched upon, as Amy discusses “roofies” with a man who believes they are a myth created to cover up regretful drunken indiscretion. Going a step further, Baker and Everson (co-writers) delve into the loneliness associated with depression and the incredible isolation experienced by victims of sexual abuse. However, choosing to cover so much ground in such a short time (80 minutes) only allows the writers a superficial exploration of any of their chosen topics.
In choosing to cover so much breadth of ground, Felt falls well short of any meaningful examination of the gender issues plaguing American and world culture. While it is certainly a push in the right direction, the film’s inability to stick to any one topic or even focus on any particular genre (IMDb labels it as a Drama, Romance and Horror) relegates it to little more than a meandering arrangement of scenes and images encircling a woman’s struggle with identity and cultural oppression.
Jordan Brooks (@viewtoaqueue) is an increasingly-snobby cinefile based out of sunny San Diego, California. As a contributor to several online publications, including his own blog, he has succeeded in fulfilling his life long dream of imposing strong opinions on others.