Indie Feature Film: Determinism (Reviewed by Christopher Williams)

I spend my Tuesdays at three in the morning the way most people my age do: watching movies in a cramped room with more people than available seating.  The last movie we watched together was the long-anticipated arrival of Sanjit and Ranju Majumdars’ Determinism. I was not sure what to think of the movie prior to viewing except for hope from the alluring trailer and rather cryptic title.  The movie itself was wonderfully dark and refreshingly insightful.  The director’s imaginative film style, creative music scores and powerful storyline make Determinism a movie you have to see to believe.

The film style was defined as “grunge” and certain rough shots and harsh camera movements were used to reinforce a darker ambiance for the viewer.  With that in mind I will admit that the exposure was off periodically and Majumdar was guilty of breaking the axis at times.  It had the downside of making dialogue difficult to follow, yet the methodical nature of introducing the characters reinforced the grunge style that the director was hoping for.  The special effects were quite impressive for the movie and the sweeping city shots were amazing (although arguably superfluous transitions).  Characters would be reintroduced in the movie with their name cleverly inserted somewhere on screen, which helped me to follow them since the beginning of the movie.  It had a unique character introduction, with Facebook profile-style introductions. The storyline also had a nice level of sophistication with a seemingly linear plotline that was actually threaded in layers of foreshadowing and backstories.

What I am truly concerned about, though, is the relationship between the director’s intent and the movie itself.  The very title provokes some deep insight into an existential dilemma.  We see the main character, Alec’s, struggle of being an authentic individual in a “racially charged” world that one is becoming increasingly disenchanted with which forces the viewer to question how much control he really has over his environment.  However, Alec became so engulfed in his own shortcomings as a first-generation Indian that he seemed to follow a path of despair and crime instead of working towards his own betterment.  Fortunately, it is the very apathy expressed by him that makes the movie particularly spectacular.  The characters are revealed slowly and their rather obscure history demands attention to every detail, every dialogue, and every little piece of information in order to understand the motives of all the characters.

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Considering Alec’s hopelessness coupled with the fickle loyalty of his best friend, Tristan, the director seems to do away with traditional protagonists and antagonists.  This gives the viewer several more dimensions to analyze the movie.  One could view Alec as the antagonist for his inability to retain any sense of virtue or you could view his best friend as such when he no longer supports Alec and so on.  The movie also has several b-plots and c-plots which end up ultimately unresolved.  These sort of loose ties are typically looked down upon in movies, yet the ambiguous nature of the movie seemed to ameliorate any real difficulties. Determinism really makes one wonder to what extent our environment shapes our actions and to what lengths one would go to get what they desired.

The most flattering aspect of this movie is that it is something I can watch multiple times without complaint.  The movie has several layers of depth which lend to very good post-viewing discussions.  One caveat I would provide for you is to honestly question your audience.  Although most of my friends really enjoyed the movie, my girlfriend found the depressing reality presented in this movie to be less-than-palatable.  The movie’s genre is one which you would not be very wise to bring children to or one where you are hoping to set the mood for the rest of an evening.  With that said I would be hard-pressed to conceive of Determinism being anything less than a great movie.  I highly recommend viewing it.

See the trailer of Determinism at