Evan (Harry Hains in his film debut) is a zombie. No, not of the undead kind, wandering the landscape in search of its next meal, but the product of a rough childhood and foster care (a half-dozen different homes by the time he was a teen).
Those experiences have transformed him into something of an automaton, moving through life alive and alert, but nonetheless cold and distant. This young man, now in his early 20s, is the focus of writer/director Michael J. Saul’s The Surface, his long-awaited return to the feature-length milieu (Crush released in 2009, followed by a number of award-winning short films since then, including Adults Only and Go Go Reject).
The film is in current release on the festival circuit (debuting at Frameline this past June) — however, word arrived this past week from Artizical Entertainment that The Surface will be available for the DVD arena come Dec. 15.
As the story begins we see that Evan is in something of a relationship with a young man his own age by the name of Chris (Nicholas McDonald). It is here that Saul quickly establishes Evan’s character — he’s detached, ambivalent, distant, while his partner, of wealth and means, is clinging and needy.
It isn’t working, despite the obvious advantages for Evan … it’s an environment that feels cold and sterile and it awakens our “zombie.” There has to be something more than this.
This “something” arrives in a most unexpected manner. Evan is simply out and about one sunny day when he happens up a garage sale, a chance meeting with the elderly home owner and the impulsive purchase of an old 8mm camera and a box of films that went along with it.
In the context of filmmaker Michael Saul’s cinematography for The Surface, the purchase of this “relic” provides the perfect metaphor for Evan’s path to discovery; an awakening. It’s a simple technology, rough and textured, as opposed to our modern world of mega-pixels and perfect clarity … the world of our zombie.
After viewing the films, he returns some time later to the old man’s home, inspired to edit them into a film of his own making. He comes to find, from the man’s son, Peter (Michael Redford), that his father has passed away, but is more than welcome to make use of the equipment in the garage.
From the purchase of the camera, to meeting with Peter and what follows, it becomes clear that Evan is discovering something within himself … something that needs to be explored.
The Surface is a nice indie film, pleasing to its intended audience, but worth a look from an even wider audience for its structure, camerawork and storytelling.