Imagine it: Abandoning all the trappings of the modern world—television, movies, the Internet. What would it be like to remove the distractions from your day-to-day life and shed all the things that prevent you from connecting with other people? Two couples decide to make that journey in the very strange and provocative film, “Hide and Seek.”
While watching “Hide and Seek,” I felt myself falling into the familiar patterns of the movies that play at Cucalorus each year. There’s so often a strong artistic component to the films—an interesting, or at least challenging idea, that plays out in each movie. “Hide and Seek” has that high-concept pitch: Imagine deserting the outside word in favor of internal exploration. I’m interested. Then there are other familiar festival tropes: sexual exploration, nudity, a ridiculously narcissistic search for meaning.
I found myself perpetually amused by “Hide and Seek,” but was never sure if that was the intention of its director, Joanna Coates. Much like the characters that inhabit this commune, there is no sense of judgement. There’s a sense of cinematic detachment from the characters, like the film’s theme. We know very little about them or the lives they lived before they set out on this adventure of self discovery. Coates simply lets the characters exist in the now and gives us brief glimpses into their psyches. It’s like a hippy-dippy psyche eval or a veritable antithesis to the Stanford Prison experiment.
It’s funny how the order in which I watch films can present new insights. After watching the ugly satire of “Bag Boy, Lover Boy,” I found myself thinking this was exactly the kind of work that Andres Torres was mocking. There is something to be said for giving the audience a choice, and that’s exactly what “Hide and Seek” does. Coates restrains herself from evaluating the test subjects of this makeshift utopia. There are no explanations of how exactly they are allowed to live in relative comfort without jobs, engaging in frequent sexploration with one another, and putting on makeshift variety show routines—which I found to be grating to an impossible degree.
Coates allows the audience to make the ultimate judgement. I found myself to be extremely judgemental. I’d like to think there may be some credence to the idea of abandoning this modern world and so much of its soul-crushing structure; however, our quartet of characters decide that equates to acting 12, and carrying out every impulse possible, saying no to nothing.
“Hide and Seek” seems satisfied with exploring the idea of a utopian society with little to none of the ugliness. It gives glimpses of how their idyllic pursuits are viewed by the outside world, but it only serves to validate their hypothesis. A world without ego or greed could exist if we choose to abandon cerebral thought in favor of emotional investment. Just then, Wavy Gravy, Jerry Brown and the cast of “Hair” show up for a giant musical production replete with buckets of body paint and enough weed to put Tommy Chong into a temporary coma. I’m kidding, of course. There’s no amount of weed that could put Tommy Chong into a coma.
“Hide and Seek” works as a discussion piece. Different viewers are going to have different reactions, and I imagine the discussions and opinions may be far more interesting than the movie itself. “Hide and Seek” isn’t so much a think piece as a feel piece. Some may admire the characters for being able to walk away from everything in favor of a small slice of heaven. Others may find the whole adventure to be an act of immaturity with people afraid to deal with the realities of our world. There’s no wrong answer, but “Hide and Seek” certainly prompts a lot of questions.
Hide and Seek
Starring Josh O’Connor, Rea Mole
Directed by Joanna Coates
Friday, November 14, 7 p.m.
Thalian Hall, Mainstage
310 Chestnut St.