Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Honourable Mention: Amethyst

Amethyst came to my attention as it was on Amazon Prime and, watching the trailer, I was sure there was a vampire aspect – I was right. But this is an unusual beast and there is no doubt about that. Definitely psychedelic (and given the subject matter that is no surprise) and absolutely dialogue silent and, bar one card that we see the writing on and a warning sign, the film has virtually no intertitles (there is a prologue title telling us this is based on true events and one at the end as a coda piece).

The Jared Masters directed film is indie and relies on filters and effects and has some problems with the photography. Yet I was entranced as I watched it, for the most part.

Ember at the door
So, the film starts with a house and a girl, Ember (Valerie Miller), approaches the door and knocks but there is no answer. She walks to a stone wall and places the box she carries and a card on it. Opening the box she takes a vial out with an eye dropper and drips one drop onto her tongue.

the note
Ember is no longer at the house and another girl, Amethyst (Grace Klich), finds the box and card. She puts down the apple she is eating and opens the card, which is from Ember wishing her a happy 17th birthday. She opens the vial and downs the contents. Then she sees the rider on the bottom of the card “PS Just one drop”. She walks into the garden fascinated by the statues and roses as Ember returns and starts looking for her. At this point I noticed that some of the following cameras were unsteady and juddered slightly and a steady cam would have been preferable.

Grace Klich as Amethyst
Soon the trip kicks in – as the contents are clearly LSD. Amethyst meets a variety of characters under the influence. Ember does find her but, at one point, her face becomes painted with a mask eliciting a violent reaction. Amethyst also meets a character called (in the IMDb credits) the Eunich (sic) Bridgekeeper (Derrick Biedenback), who to me actually seemed more like the Piper at the Gates of Dawn (and the Pink Floyd connection there makes a nice link given the subject). She also meets Junius Licinius Balbus (Jared Masters) – again according to the IMDb credits – and that does not end well.

things turn darker
However, in much of this I could see a young girl’s sexual awakening being explored – however, that does seem that I am reading too much in to the silent narrative. But because of this I was reminded, to a degree, of Valerie and her Week of Wonders. I was also reminded of the work of Chris Alexander, due to the silent element, and also some Jean Rollin, because of the fantastique element. But what, you ask, of the vampires?

a vampire, bound
As the trip turns darker and darker still, Amythyst crosses a “do not enter” sign into a graveyard. She seems to collapse, her eyes suggesting a seizure, perhaps? Then she stands, her dress gone and replaced by a gossamer thin nightdress (of the atypical vampire film standard). She explores the graveyard, whispering secrets to a stone cherub. She sees a cloaked woman (Olivia Yohai) tied to a tree and unties her. As Amethyst does this we get a brief flash of her still holding the flask, in the place where the trip kicked in.

vampire and spectre
The woman starts to follow her through the graveyard and, at one point, we see a hideous spirit moving with her. She eventually vanishes, appears behind Amethyst and bites her, for she is a vampire woman. Following this Amethyst explores more of the graveyard, we occasionally get coloured smoke (coming from graves/crypts) and then Amethyst meets Ember, holding a chalice, which she drinks from. When Ember also drinks from it we see the chalice contained blood.

That is our vampire bit, and in context of coming of sexual age we can see that the vampire often can be used as a metaphor for the blossoming sexuality, virgin to the sexually active. There are obvious budget issues, there was a vial continuity error (that could be explained away by the fact it is a trip) and there was some juddery camera issues as I mentioned. I said it kept me entranced, for the most part, but towards the end the 70-minute film did start to outstay its welcome a little. The soundtrack was really well chosen.

A 70 minute budget exploration of a young woman’s trip with no dialogue won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but we do get a vampire’s fleeting visitation.

The imdb page is here.

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