8 is the film debut of Director Andrew Vandaele. It is styled in such a way as to echo early silent films, both in the manner of it’s narrative, and also in the approach taken by it’s principle actors. The film is shot in black and white, and in the first sequence, we see a woman stumbling down the street alongside a brick building with a bright streetlight overhead. The woman is suffering from some type of unnamed trauma as we see pain and exasperation upon her face. Next she is inside of her home, where she searches her face for something, but we know not what. It has a feel very much as if we’re seeing her immediately following an assault in the streets, but there is no superficial evidence of this. Tired and overwhelmed with emotion, the woman lowers herself to the floor as she begins to weep. Next we’re on a beach where the same woman looks out at the sea and wades into the water. Another woman appears and joins her, giving comfort as the two stand embracing. The other woman gives her a bracelet as a gift. Now our setting changes again, and this time it’s the same two women, along with an additional one. Our protagonist is being led to a large office building with glass windows. Inside she is placed on a cot, where she gives anxious looks to her two companions until the door swings open and a doctor steps in, medical bag in hand. He gives the woman a shot as the two friends cry and brace themselves. The doctor pushes the woman’s eyes shut upon her death as the films’ credits roll and provide us our only textual clue to the film’s meaning: the number 8 as it tips onto it’s side, creating the symbol for infinity.
The conclusion that this viewer came away with is that the film was a poetic visual representation of how the community of human beings provide each other with the needed support to face death with the fulfillment of having known love. Or maybe something like this, but not as easily defined. 8 wants to cast an enigmatic spell on its’ audience to invite them into it’s dream-like string of sequences, but lacks the power to be truly compelling. As we search the scenes for meaning it may evade us, but the film’s more spiritual focus comes at the expense of practical filmmaking concerns. In particular in the departments of acting, set design, and editing. The lead actress has a tendency to allow a telling smirk to flash in several of the scenes, appearing on the verge of laughter in a number of key moments which are meant to illicit high drama. The low budget begins to draw attention to itself with all of the things that we’re not seeing. The self-conscious camera movement feels claustrophobic in it’s lack of exploration, and we find out why in the final frame where what looks like a storage closet becomes an unconvincing hospital room. It’s an interesting experiment at times, but lacks the cinematic finesse needed to pull the viewer in.