A Measure of the Sin, the first feature length film by director Jeff Wedding doesn’t fit neatly into the genre of horror. It could just as easily be called a drama, albeit a surrealistic one. It does however contain elements familiar to the horror genre and is reminiscent of classic 1970s horror fare, such as Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. What you can say for sure however, is that this is an arthouse film, a distinction made clear by the use of such elements as the director’s decision to shoot entirely on 16mm film. This works extremely well, as it gives the impression that events are being viewed from an eye into the past. It also makes everything look more realistic and enhances the distinctions in the colours and light seen on screen. Read on below.
The film follows protagonist Meredith, who is cut off from society and lives under the oppressive control of a sinister figure known only as The Man. Her thoughts are presented to the viewer through the device of a voiceover narration by Katie Groshong who previously starred in the cult film Jug Face and plays the adult Meredith – we are also shown flashbacks of the character’s highly unconventional childhood. This device works very well and feels very intimate, as if we are being given a glimpse into Meredith’s private and intimate thoughts. Through this poetical and descriptive dialogue, we slowly begin to unravel Meredith’s situation and how she got to be where and who she is. What remains uncertain however, is why she is being plagued by visitations from a malevolent bear that no one else can see.
The film is gripping from start to finish and I related to the characters in a way I hadn’t felt in a very long time. It also deals with heavy subject matter. Themes such as abuse (both emotional and sexual), incest and religious fanaticism are all dealt with in an unflinching way, but from a humanistic rather than a sensationalist standpoint. The direction is masterful – slow and languid pacing hooks the viewer in, tightly framed shots create a palpable feeling of claustrophobia and a sensual and dreamlike world is brought to life through clever use of symbolism and a naturalistic realism. The acting is also extremely accomplished, making the characters feel fully formed and relatable, no matter how odd they are. Dialogue spoken on screen is sparse, lending it an air of resonance and an atmospheric score adds to the films overall feel of melancholy. The direction seems to be heavily influenced by Terrence Mallick, perhaps a little too much at times, but the film’s ingenuity and raw power prevents it from ever becoming unoriginal.
A Measure of the Sin is an engrossing and captivating experience, a masterpiece of filmmaking and a revealing journey into the depths of a fractured psyche.