First Look: Mark Pellington’s “LONE”

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Amidst a rush of ominous sound design, our first glimpse of the mostly parched, largely abandoned world in LONE is the charred skeleton of a house, viewed through what feels like a vortex. If it’s a memory, it’s hidden in a swirl of information and pain and we will have to dig deeper and travel far before we can return to it and gain a clearer understanding of what’s in front of us. This seems the journey of the viewer as well as  singer/songwriter Chelsea Wolfe’s spirit-self in this new musical film, from director Mark Pellington(Arlington Road, The Mothman Prophecies, I Melt With You, music videos for Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Springsteen, NIN, Demi Lovato, Moby, Alpha Rev).

LONE is a 52-minute moving painting; it exists in its own cinematic world, while dipping its toes in both experimental film and music video territory. Incorporating five songs from Wolfe’s most recent album PAIN IS BEAUTY, director Pellington and Wolfe have externalized a dark subconscious stew, borne of both their minds.

Nightmarish yet beautiful images and symbols are hatched from the themes of (according to its director) memory, forgiveness, shame, healing, revenge, powerlessness, home, isolation, and loss of innocence. Singer/songwriter Wolfe appears throughout, journeying through multiple locations and personalities. The first line of dialogue from Chelsea is whispered in our ear: “He told me, I’ll steal a part of you.” Soon after, an inert man is glimpsed with a handkerchief in his jacket, of a striking, red material. Later on, Chelsea performs in a red dress of the same material. Connections and patterns like this continue to emerge… Charged encounters with a priest-like father/authority figure lead to forgiveness and a redemptive finale, where Chelsea returns to the house glimpsed in the story’s opening.  Scars linger and remain, despite the journey’s catharsis. We are with her for each step in this non-linear, dreamlike story; and despite the fragmented imagery, each step builds upon what came before it.

LONE never feels like multiple music videos or set-pieces strung together. I actually wouldn’t want to see this broken up into song-sets, though the standalone video for “Feral Love” (the first song used in its entirety) is powerful, setting the tone and immersing the viewer in imagery that will be further explored and revisited over the course of the film.

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Truly haunting moments abound; from silent masked amputees, unsettling stock footage of natural disasters and nuclear tests, to the raw vulnerability of characters in close-up who don’t want their soul bared for all to see. Yet it’s so gorgeously composed and photographed that nearly every sequence feels borderline serene, even in its darkness.

Each viewer will probably take away a different experience from the film, I’ve found more meanings and layers in it the more I’ve seen it. It’s interesting to let one’s mind impose an ordered narrative on the material, but perhaps the best way to experience LONE is to simply experience it. Let it wash over you vs. analyzing it.

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I also recommend watching Pellington’s experimental documentaries “Father’s Daze” (about his family’s struggle to understand and cope with his father’s dementia) and “Of Time And Memory”(where author Don Snyder recounts his journey of discovering the past of the mother he never knew). Both have fragmented narratives that explore the nature of memory, bonds of family, and look at time in a way that feels complimentary to the surreal terrain LONE confidently treads in. Viewings of both definitely enhanced my appreciation of this new film(both documentaries are available to watch on the director’s website).

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LONE is a surrealistic, deeply felt journey that will deepen your connection to Chelsea’s music, if you’re already a fan; or will create new fans out of newcomers.  Threaded through and around the songs are atmospheric Lynchian soundscapes, composed by Wolfe and musician Ben Chisholm.  When you see the film, larger and louder is definitely the way to experience it, if you can.

LONE is currently available for purchase at Chelsea’s live shows (on a custom USB drive!) and can also be ordered from her HelloMerch website. I’m told it will also be sold through the expected digital channels soon.

-Adam Barnick

www.hellomerch.com/collections/chelsea-wolfe

www.chelseawolfe.net

www.sargenthouse.com

www.markpellington.com

Check back soon on Icons of Fright for an extended interview with director Mark Pellington on his recent films and the creation of LONE.

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