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Sometimes in life it is the quiet moments that are the times worth remembering the most. We always have events or circumstances that are flung in front of us as individuals, certainly from time to time, and that shove all our inner-peace or solitude into some distant foreground of our mind. Despite all of this happening to us we keep marching forward as individuals and as a society that is constantly moving towards greater self-understanding and success. Yet what about those quiet moments; how do they impact our future as well as the fast and constantly shifting times do?
This indie-hit drama focuses its thoughts primarily on those quiet and delicate moments in life where we have big realizations about ourselves as we recognize that we are always people faced with growing and changing. Beneath Clouds asks for its audience to take a step back and to ponder the importance of our encounters and interactions with each other and how quiet moments like conversations between two people can have the biggest impact on our growth as individuals. All events happen underneath the sky, and that is something this film inherently understands. Anything can happen beneath clouds - chance encounters, those crazy fast-paced moments, the solitude, and the ability to bond.
The story centers on the bond between two characters that one wouldn't expect to normally bond. They both come from different backgrounds in life and are from different circles of friends. Lena (played by the newcomer Dannielle Hall) is light-skinned girl born to an aboriginal mother and an Irish father. Vaughn is young man from Murri. The two are both on a journey that centers on finding family. This unlikely pair ends up traveling together and as the plot unfolds we discover more about these two young people and some of the history behind their beliefs and actions.
One thing that Beneath Clouds tackles really well is race. It is an issue that is made prevalent in this film, and it is analyzed in a way that is humane and heartfelt. Writer/Director Ivan Sen crafts a film that is meant to reflect the importance of acceptance and understanding of ourselves and each other. This is always a favorite theme for some of the greatest film-makers working, and it demonstrates a heartfelt sentimentality that is honest and involving. The other thing tackled directly by the screenplay is the ability for two people to connect in unlikely circumstances and it was certainly addressed in a believable and compassionate way. I grew to care about these characters: Lena and Vaughn. The journey the film-maker was taking me on felt important because it was for these characters with whom I bonded with simply by experiencing the story.
The artistry involved in making Beneath Clouds was also quite strong across the board. One of the most impressive aspects was the cinematography, which is frequently striking with bold use of colors and an understanding of how to film the surrounding environments. I was also fond of the musical score which lent the entire piece a calm sense of joy and sorrow simultaneously that felt just right for this film. The editing is also exquisite, and helped to keep the film going at an enjoyable pace. I was amazed that in a film with as much conversational dialogue as this that there was nary a dull moment.
If I had one major complaint by the time the credits rolled, it's that the opening credits that began the film were a bit silly with video of clouds being manipulated in speed through obvious effects and had unnecessarily techno music blasting that didn't mesh well with the rest of the sound qualities prevalent in the film.
Ultimately, Ivan Sen brought a personal touch to this story that made it an involving experience I will not soon forget. Beneath Clouds is an underappreciated film that at one time found success through film festival roots. Give this personal film-making a chance and it might just prove to be a winning surprise.
The 1:85:1 anamorphic transfer is in some ways better than I expected for an indie festival film from 2002. However, that isn't exactly the highest praise I can give it either. The video has a number of issues. The biggest problem is that when there is a lot of motion you can see jagged lines. The colors are also a tad less resonant than I believe they were supposed to be. This appears to be an outdated transfer by today's standards. I wasn't terribly impressed, but I was glad it was at least an anamorphic presentation (for what that's worth).
The audio presentation doesn't fare much better than the video. It is certainly listenable with the 2.0 language track, yet it never comes close to the kind of sonic experience a 5.1 mix would have managed to bring to the table. The dialogue is luckily easy to understand and follow.
I was surprised by the inclusion of extras. I just assumed that due to the nature of this film's indie nature and age that a recent DVD release would not necessarily mean much in the way of extras. Luckily, an entertaining (if only mildly informative) behind the scenes making of is included. There is also a short film entitled 'Tears' that was also written and directed by Ivan Sen. The included short feels like a precursor to what would come with Beneath Clouds and serves as an enjoyable companion piece.
Beneath Clouds was a much more involving and moving film than I had initially expected. It is a portrait of two young people who bond under unlikely circumstances. The DVD release has average PQ/AQ but a decent supplemental selection. The film itself is certainly a good enough reason to recommend this release, but the added extras have helped to push me towards regarding this release as Highly Recommended.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.