Zenith (film)

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Zenith
Zenith film promo poster.jpg
Promotional poster
Directed by Vladan Nikolic
Produced by
Screenplay by Vladan Nikolic
Story by Vladan Nikolic
Starring
Music by Luigi Colarullo
Cinematography Vladimir Subotic
Edited by Milica Zec
Release date
  • October 1, 2010 (2010-10-01)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Zenith (also styled as Zenith - A Film by Anonymous) is a 2010 American psychological thriller about two men attempting to solve the same conspiracy theory. The title refers to a grand 'Zenith Conspiracy' formed by the film's protagonist, Ed Crowley. The film also utilizes an alternate reality game and transmedia storytelling to augment its narrative.[1][2]

Zenith premiered at The IFC Center in New York City on October 1, 2010, and had an extended run in January 2011 at the Kraine Theatre with its distribution company, Cinema Purgatorio.[3] All three parts have been made available as a free-to-share download at the BitTorrent powered distribution site VODO.

Plot[edit]

In the post-apocalyptic year 2044, the population has been genetically altered to live in a constant state of happiness, but without sorrow, happiness dissipates, leaving only a feeling of never-ending paresthesia. Only pain can make people feel alive.

Jack (Peter Scanavino), a young man and former neurosurgeon, is a peddler of substances that induce pain. A stranger knocks on Jack’s door and hands him a single video tape that Jack’s long lost father, Ed Alexander Crowley (Jason Robards III), left behind. It is the first in a series of 10 tapes in which Ed has documented his life and his pursuit of what he calls the “Grand Conspiracy,” a conspiracy that quite possibly could be the answer to what happened to Jack’s world.

Inspired by his father’s tape, Jack sets out on his own investigation. But in order to solve the whole puzzle, he must locate the remaining nine tapes. Jack begins to track down four more tapes, but the larger answer still eludes him.

Jack meets the provocative Lisa (Ana Asensio) in a strip club, and is struck by the fact that she is just as conflicted and lonely as he is. Through her, Jack encounters the possibility of real love. As Jack finds the remaining tapes, the lines between his interior and exterior world blur, leading him to question reality itself. Lisa and Jack decide to abandon the search for the tapes and leave the city.

Jack locates Ed’s last tape, and is suddenly faced with the same choice his father had to make forty years ago: to surrender his soul, or to remain true to himself, no matter the consequences. Jack's reality becomes the same reality as the final tape.

Jack is revealed to be an institutionalized patient (named Ed Crowley) with both epilepsy and a brain tumor, taking part in a clinical research trial in 2012, scribbling notes about Zenith while being monitored by a camera in his cell, wondering if this isn't another part of the conspiracy.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Zenith was written and directed by Vladan Nikolic, and filmed digitally using the Red One camera.[4]

Alternate reality game[edit]

On August 31, 2010, Above Top Secret posted a forum thread[5] offering a $500 reward for the first individual to correctly identify the purpose behind the website for the fictitious company "Wadjet Industries."[6][7] Through a maze of websites, users quickly discovered that Wadjet Industries was related to a new film by director Vladan Nikolic, and that the goal of the alternate reality game was to find online video clips of Ed Crowley's tapes, edit them together, and upload them via YouTube to the film's promotional website, stopzenith.com.[8][9]

BitTorrent promotion[edit]

On March 16, 2011, BitTorrent Inc. promoted an open licensed version (CC by-nc-nd) of the first section of the film[10] for two weeks with Vodo.net[11] and other torrent-based distribution partners. Users downloading BitTorrent client software are encouraged to download and share the first of three parts of the film during the software installation. On May 4, 2011, Part Two of the film was made available on Vodo.[12] The BitTorrent promotion and ARG transmedia campaign resulted in over a million downloads of the first section of the film [13] and elevated the project to cult status.[14][15][16]

Reception[edit]

Upon the film's limited release in theaters, reviews ranged from positive to mixed. In the Village Voice, Michael Atkinson noted, "A brooding science-fiction trip enjoyed largely as a monologue. Luckily, Nikolic's lust for paranoid desperation is powerful, and his way with actors is stunningly graceful."[17]

Joe Leydon praised the film in Variety: "Smoothly incorporating influences as diverse as Philip K. Dick and Terry Gilliam, Zenith commands attention and builds suspense by taking inventive detours through familiar territory."[18]

Maitland McDonagh wrote in Film Journal International that the film weaves together "dystopian visions of a desensitized, crumbling future a la Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard, in which ubiquitous techno-distractions, dispassionate sex and dependence on artificial sensation are gradually leaching the humanity from the human race."[19]

Jeannette Catsoulis in The New York Times commented, this "bewildering collision of noir narration and purple paranoia may be long on atmosphere but is woefully short on sense."[20]

Noel Murray of The A.V. Club gave the 90-minute film a C+, while calling it "an audacious, impressive feat of imagination, turning a few sets and characters into a generation-spanning look at a society where benevolence and malevolence are so finely interwoven that it’s hard to know what to fight against." Murray found that, in 90-minute film form, it "doesn’t fully work"; both the beginning and end of the film were "strong", but in between, the film seemed padded with "cheesy-looking sex and fight scenes, and with a doubling-back narrative structure" that was confusing, and looked like an "attempt to save money by reusing footage."[21]

Kevin Thomas wrote in the Los Angeles Times "Many of Nikolic's concerns and motifs are familiar yet their expression here is vivid and idiosyncratic, designed to intensify a highly contemporary concern about the loss of freedom and power of the individual to secret, manipulative cartels." [22]

Brett Michel in the Boston Herald gave the film a "B", and remarked, "persistent voiceover narration, a device that helps smooth over a lack of scene transitions — [is] one area that exposes the film’s budgetary limitations. Still, the use of dilapidated Brooklyn and Queens locations, creatively photographed by Vladimir Subotic, goes a ways toward selling a future not too far removed from ones en-visioned by Philip K. Dick or J.G. Ballard."[23]

Loren Smith of the Boston Globe noted "With its bleak fatalism, “Zenith’’ at times echoes futuristic thrillers such as “12 Monkeys’’ and “Children of Men.’’ The shoestring budget is often obvious, with one too many strobe-light sequences, and it is dispiriting that even a movie set in 2044 has a gold-hearted hooker as the hero’s object of desire. But “Zenith’’ boasts terrific photography by Vladimir Subotic and offers a few genuine surprises. Director Nikolic shouldn’t remain “anonymous’’ for long: He gets solid performances from all the actors and creates an atmosphere of mounting paranoia that’s grim and chilling."[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Official Zenith Press Notes Archived July 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.. zeniththefilm.com.
  2. ^ Tabitha (September 21, 2010). "Zenith and its "transmedia" approach to storytelling could very well become an Internet phenomenon". SoundsOnSight.org. 
  3. ^ "Zenith – Cinema Purgatorio". Cinemapurgatorio.com. Retrieved 2011-05-04. 
  4. ^ Vodo. IMDB.
  5. ^ "September, 2010 ATS Game Rules and Solutions". AboveTopSecret.com. August 31, 2010. 
  6. ^ Wadjet Industries website
  7. ^ AboveTopSecret.com. "September, 2010 ATS Game Rules and Solutions, page 1". Abovetopsecret.com. Retrieved 2011-05-04. 
  8. ^ Crakeur. "2010 Game Discussion, page 1". Abovetopsecret.com. Retrieved 2011-05-04. 
  9. ^ "What will it take to stop 'Zenith'? This film may have the answers.". TwitchFilm.net. September 2010. 
  10. ^ "BitTorrent Ecosystem: Zenith Part One Takes the Spotlight (...)". BitTorrent Blog. Bittorrent.com. March 16, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Zenith (2011) — by Anonymous". VODO. Retrieved 2011-05-04. 
  12. ^ "Zenith (2011) - a film by anonymous". May 4, 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-05-04. 
  13. ^ "ZENITH: crowdfunded, BitTorrent science fiction thriller". Boing Boing. 2011-03-22. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  14. ^ "Daily Dose Pick: Zenith". Flavorwire. 2010-12-17. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  15. ^ Macaulay, Scott. "Zenith Creator Vladan Nikolic | Filmmaker Magazine". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  16. ^ Kohn, Eric. "Toolkit Case Study: The Transmedia Conspiracy of Vladan Nikolic's "Zenith"". Indiewire. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  17. ^ Atkinson, Michael (September 29, 2010). "Sci-Fi? Zenith Imagines a Future When No One is Happy in Brooklyn or Queens". Village Voice. 
  18. ^ Leydon, Joe (2011-01-19). "Review: 'Zenith'". Variety. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  19. ^ McDonagh, Maitland (May 27, 2016). "Film Journal International". Film Journal International. 
  20. ^ Catsoulis, Jeannette (January 18, 2011). "His Dad Left a Conspiracy; You're Invited to the Hunt". New York Times. 
  21. ^ Murray, Noel (January 20, 2011). "Zenith (review)". The A.V. Club. 
  22. ^ Thomas, Kevin (2011-02-04). "Movie review: 'Zenith'". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-05-27. 
  23. ^ Michel, Brett (January 28, 2011). "'Zenith' at top of its game". Boston Herald. 
  24. ^ King, Loren (January 28, 2011). "A futuristic thriller tied to a web of conspiracy". Boston Globe. 

External links[edit]