By Jacob Wampfler
I love video stores. There is something magical for me in walking through aisle upon aisle, wall to wall of physical, concrete media that can’t simply be streamed at the push of a remote button. Each title I pick up, I turn over front to back, delicately hoping to find that film which will inspire and surprise in ways I never thought possible. Late on a Sunday evening this month, my aimless wandering through my local video store (walking distance from my home), produced a film experience that shocked, overjoyed, and caught me completely off guard. The film is Spring – a new horror/romance directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead – and I can’t even begin to describe what I watched.
I picked up this film on a mere whim. I knew almost nothing about the plot before pushing “play.” A brief IMDB plot summary peaked my interest: a young man who has little left to live for in the U.S. decides to escape to Italy. After wandering for a time, he meets a girl. The girl has a secret. And that is where the genre tropes end and the absolute magic begins.
Spring is a film that exists in the uncanny valley of sub-genre. It eludes almost every traditional genre label and remains nigh indescribable to me almost a week after my first viewing. I maintain vagueness here because I refuse to be responsible for spoiling a single detail of this film’s plot, premise, or turning points. Letting Spring unfold in front of your eyes is a large part of this film’s sheer beauty…and horror.
In poignant and breathtaking ways, the film itself stands as a metaphor for life in general: both beautiful and horrific at the same time. Likewise, the film has been viewed as an extended illustration about fear of commitment, fear of loving someone with your entire being. Accordingly, Spring shatters notions of unconditional love. As Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain explored love transcending time and space, Spring pushes even further by showing love that transcends the very nature of humanity.
Thus far, I have neglected to mention the actual people in this film. Only a few characters show up: Evan and Louise display a complicated and tentative relationship that comprises a large percentage of the film’s runtime. A hallmark of the mumblecore genre, in my estimation, Spring plays like watching an actual human interaction just happen – complete with all the awkward pauses and distant glances that occur between couples of all stripes (see Drinking Buddies for a fantastic dose of true mumblecore). Human relationships are filled with angst, pain, and confusion. Evan and Louise’s relationship is no different than many of our own. This causes Spring to take up an uncomfortable yet familiar place in the viewer’s heart.
As an unofficial champion of indie films and creative cinema, all I can say is this: watch Spring if you want to be awestruck like never before. It won’t be comfortable, it might not even be pleasant. But this film does what so few works of art actually accomplish. It flips genre convention on its head, speaks startling truth, and sends the viewer away with an image of love etched in their memory that will not soon be forgotten.