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Review of Broken Sky

Broken Sky requires an immense amount of patience.  It is very different from most other films that we usually see. Eventually, though, those differences are what distinguishes this film.

The tale, to the extent there actually is a plot at all, describes the joy and pain of love and longing.  We see what appears to be an example of true love.  As one partner begins to create an image of an even more perfect match, we start to grasp the interwoven themes.  One partner loves the other more deeply.  One partner is loved by yet another most fully.  Meeting the needs and desires of all involved becomes a futile quest.

Yes, this is a heavy film, probably not well suited for a typical “date night.”  However, what is speaks is vital for all to hear.  Actually, it is the technique with which the story is told that makes the story powerful.  Ironically, that technique is the film’s strength and greatest weakness.

There is almost no dialogue in this two and a half hour movie.  The story is told through four main channels.  Thus, the film’s strength is the boldness of this narrative strategy.  The weakness is the redundance within it.

The four channels are the use of a narrator, music with carefully selected lyrics matching the mood of the scenes, composition and camera movement.  The narration is unnecessary, and, as such, it feels intrusive, treating the viewer as a visual illiterate.  The lyrics of the songs serve as supplemental narration, and are similarly coddling.  Thus, the last two channels are sufficient for the director’s mission.

The director, Julian Hernandez, relies heavily on his stylized composition to shout the meaning of each shot.  There are usually very few movements by the performers to reinforce or distract from the composition’s meaning.  In that sense, watching this film is very much like flipping through its storyboard.  In that sense (but only in that sense), Broken Sky is reminiscent of the French New Wave auteurs.  It might as well be a series of still images, except for the role of the camera movement itself.

Most shots are stationary, however Hernandez uses his camera movement as a form of editing, of moving from one shot to another.  He does this by executing very long pans of 360 degrees (or more).  The actual edit of the film is accomplished at the point of greatest visual confusion in the pan, typically when the camera pans to a very dark part of the set.  Of course, this is not an original technique.  Nevertheless, it is effective for a while.  However the pan is used so frequently as a self-conscious device that it, too, becomes as redundant and unnecessary (and unremarkable) as the lyrics and the narration.

If you can allow yourself to be absorbed by the slow pacing of this film and if you can forgive the exuberance of the transparent techniques, Broken Sky will eventually envelop you with its tragic emotion.  Do not expect to walk away from the experience feeling inspired, because you will only leave the viewing in deep thought and, perhaps, despair.

broken sky dvd cover

Genre: Gay themed drama/romance

Director: Julian Hernandez

Language: English sub-titles

Availability: DVD and streaming

99Gay-Men.us Rating: ****

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