Creator: Wilkie Branson
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
Dancer Wilkie Branson’s new film TOM is full of foreboding and intrigue. Shadowy figures populate stunning landscapes and dystopian cities in this story of a man trying to find his place in the world. The film certainly looks good, and if Keanu Reeves were to make a dance movie then TOM might be the result.
The film begins with a man leaving an island settlement in a San Francisco streetcar that zooms across the sea on a single track. It’s a glorious panorama, especially when you realise that scenes such as these have not been drawn by computers but are based on models handcrafted by Branson himself. The figures, too, look like illustrations but they are real human forms caught by a green screen, which Branson built in his parents’ garage.
The film is then projected on three gauze screens in order that the images appear in 3D and the overall look is breathtaking. Branson has spent a few years making this film by hand, eager to create an aesthetic that doesn’t appear as if it was crafted by computer. However, despite this, TOM does resemble a high-end video game, a survival horror where one man is confronted by a multitude of men who all look like him.
This story of authenticity dominates the 45 minutes, and there is, disappointingly, little dance. A few times the main figure, Branson himself, bursts into movement with some breakdancing, a few disco spins. and the odd vogue move here and there. But too soon it’s Game Over, and the figure must begin on another train. Here, the narrative struggles here to make any headway, and the music by Benji Bower and the sound design by Mat Clark also gets lost despite an impressive start that combined progressive house with the minimalism of Steve Reich.
These are early days for the film, and Branson has hinted that in future iterations live performance may be incorporated within the projection. This should give some energy to the piece because, despite the painstaking attention to detail and the hours taken to create this experimental film, TOM remains a little lifeless.
Runs until 17 November 2018 | Image: Contributed