Bellflower is a genuinely upsetting film in all the very best ways. It was filmed on a shoestring budget, and yet for the most part, you would never be able to tell. It’s a terrifyingly beautiful, in an apocalyptic sort of way. This is the exact type of experimental filmmaking that Sundance has been charged with discovering and nurturing.
To explain what Bellflower about is a bit of a conundrum. First, the best thing you can do is go into this movie totally blind, which is a rare treat film festivals, particularly Sundance, provides. Secondly, wrapping your mind around it is a bit difficult. It follows best friends, Woodrow (played by Evan Glodell who also wrote and directed), and Aiden (Tyler Dawson). The two spend their free time building a flamethrower, and daydreaming about an apocalypse that would leave them and their invented devices of destruction free to reign. A girl, Milly, comes into the picture as Woodrow’s girlfriend, and she really, really messes things up. But not in that bro-mance way, Aiden doesn’t get jealous, nothing that predictable or familiar will be found in Bellflower. The story just begins spiraling down into a strange, brain-damaged madness full of angst-y male testosterone.
I’ll start off by saying that the film’s cinematography is gorgeous. The cameras used were custom, digital cameras adjusted to suit the filmmakers’ ideas for what the film should be. Bellflower opens with a few scenes of violence and destruction playing backwards, what could be overly simplified as foreshadowing. It sets an eerie tone for the film that actually takes a one hundred and eighty degree turn immediately following. From there it seems the film will be a love story between Woodrow and Milly. And for a while, it is.
Without giving away too many details, Woodrow is injured and since his brain his swollen, his doctors have warned that he may, spontaneously experience irreparable brain damage. From this moment, it seems, though I’m not sure, that we’re seeing the film through an unreliable narrator. A brain damaged unreliable narrator, who’s interest in all things apocalyptic is distorting his, and our reality, and changes his personality, and the atmosphere of the film. Bellflower seems like what David Lynch would do if directed a script written by Tony Scott.
The actors in the film are unknown, but you wouldn’t know it by there performances. Particularly the multi-talented Glodell, who besides acting, writing and directing, customized the cameras he shot on, designed and built the working flame thrower, and built a custom car for the film. In the beginning of the film, I thought he was just a bad actor, as he came off awkward, annoying, with a hokey laugh that is supposed to inexplicably charm the charming Milly. But as his character goes insane, there’s a transformation in the actor that demands to be recognized and praised. Get this man another movie, and soon.
At the end of the day, Bellflower is just great filmmaking. It’s dark, disturbing (prerequisites for the festival), beautiful and twisted. Throw in some violence, flamethrowers, sex and romance and you’ve got an all around great film.
Bellflower is an all around great movie that benefits from excellent filmmaking and gorgeous cinematography.