Expression of the mind onto film, anxieties realized and awakened. Reach inside and peer into the depths at the scuzzy memories and hazy fears, the scratched tape replaying a haunting loop of something half forgotten. Peer long enough and the void peers back, a pixelated reflection of an empty core, some distorted self-image stripped of all but every buried terror and suppressed tension, the cord keeping it all within snapped and released into an endless scream evaporating into the cold night air.
Victor Dubyna’s Wanton joins a pantheon of art as pure expression, not presented as a singular or linear idea or narrative but a collection of images exploding onto the screen as a boiling flow of emotion set free. It is droning and experimental, a lush wall of noise underneath a collection of haunting black and white images and aggressive lyricism. Visceral catharsis by way of the nightmare awoken and dissected, brain fluid extracted and poured onto the screen to be splattered across a thousand ideas and carefully examined. The act of creation is a conversation of self, and the most tactile and tangible expressions of that are those that confront each and every doubt and internalized frustration with reckless abandon.
It’s a stark departure from Dubyna’s last venture, a comedic odyssey under a thick layer of green smoke and a beaming adoration for cinema (check out our coverage of The Lad Goodbye (2022) and our interview with Dubyna along with co-directors Nolan O’Kane and Kirk Percival), but Wanton’s searingly powerful imagery delivered in cold black and white cements a powerful grasp on cinema, the purest idea of cinema as an infinite possibility space that the endless stream of brilliantly executed homage The Lad Goodbye sold us on. The imagery here is often reminiscent of Eraserhead (1977) or Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) but comparison almost feels like a disservice, as everything exists in such a wholly singular space. It seems to fit neatly within a recent trend of grainy lo-fi horror flooded with abstract imagery, but it does not follow in the footsteps of empty solitude begging the viewer to imprint meaning upon it, here are boldly confident statements on fully realized ideas of frustrated self-image that instead invites the viewer to commiserate – to understand.
Wanton is terrifying, a harrowing expansion of all the disgust and fury we keep so tightly locked inside, displayed with an energy that threatens to rip you apart just the same, but its powerful ability to get under your skin turns the reflexive nature of it back onto you. The words are distorted and flooded with angst, the images are gritty and disturbing, but eventually the terror is replaced by understanding, when these same notions clanged and shattered against the walls of your mind. When the fear took hold, when the doubt drowned out everything else, when the loss of self to an ever-artifacting digital self-image became an unbearably painful knot in the stomach. A stunning, blindingly intense journey of expression, a sensory overload of anxiety and fear, a complete release of kaleidoscopic audiovisual experimentation that screams and spits through the hazy memories and binary corruption while it whispers every lingering uncertainty and introspective reflection.