Zenith [2010]

Ostensibly directed by Anonymous, but presumably directed by Vladan Nikolic, Zenith is an artistic and cerebral indie film with pleasing visuals. Stylistically and thematically referencing many other cult films, Zenith’s approach is very ambitious, stylized, and heady, poising it for cult status itself.

Zenith takes place in a bleak, gritty, dystopian city of the future where humans have been altered to feel no pain. The bombed out, sparsely inhabited, yet still functional setting, combined with issues of depersonalization and identity crisis, place Zenith in the neo-noir genre. While the film hinges on certain technological enhancements made to humans, the sci-fi element isn’t heavy-handed, so don’t expect high-tech flying cars and hologram billboards, a la future-noir milestone, Blade Runner. Contrary to the film company’s own promotional material, Zenith is not a steam-punk film.

Using a “dual lead” setup, the film tells the tale of a man named “Dumb” Jack who deals pain-inducing drugs to the anesthetized populous. Jack is pulled into a web of intrigue and conspiracy, following the trail of investigation left behind and documented by his long-lost dead father. This VHS video documentation becomes the vehicle for Jack’s father to become a “co-lead” of sorts, as well as serving to propel Jack further into a realm of danger and forbidden knowledge.

The film tackles heavy intellectual themes, yet remains quickly paced and captivating, avoiding getting mired in philosophical discourse. While there is a voiceover that unites the segmented delivery of this movie, Zenith fortunately keeps most of the dialogue from entering “lecture-mode” by placing musings on identity, authority, and desire for spiritual meaning in appropriate contexts. These themes make the film ripe for discussion, and in conjunction with its ambiguity (which will drive some mad), Zenith lends itself to repeated viewings.

At times, Zenith betrays its limited budget, most significantly the wooden delivery of Jason Robards III, who portrays the prominent character, Ed Crowley. Although, like Stephen Lack’s character in Cronenberg’s Scanners, this works contextually, it is enough to be distracting and does periodically pull you out of the film. Other low-budget cliches are Zenith’s attempt to sell itself with groan-inducing hyperbolic cautionary disclaimers, and also a partial reliance on the “found footage” concept, like Cloverfield, Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity.

For fans of Pi, Videodrome, Scanners, Inception, and Memento.

This used to be freely available in 720P format @ VODO and streaming on Hulu, but apparently they have an alternate distribution deal now, so you’ll have to either rent it or purchase it.

Watch the trailer below:

About Etienne LaFitte

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