I did it, you guys. I saw Upstream Color last night.
First things first, I loved it. Just flat-out loved the thing.
Secondly, it was damned obtuse. Experimental. Meditative. Confusing. All of those things. Also beautiful, thought-provoking, harrowing.
I will now conclude with some epic spoilers. You. Have. Been. WARNED!
Upstream Color is the story of a woman named Kris who is drugged, abducted, hypnotized, robbed, and left for dead for reasons that are never truly addressed. Who cares, though- this isn’t a movie about a robber, it’s a movie about a robbee. When she finally comes to, Kris is inhabited by a frightening worm-like creature that induces her to follow a sound in the ground, ultimately leading her to a mad-musician-scientist holding office hours deep in the woods. This never-named man extracts her worm and transfers it into the body of a common pig, who is then released into a pen filled with other pigs that we can only assume are also be-wormed. The journey here will be Kris’ attempt to find that very special pig, and to come to terms with how she now experiences the world around her.
Sounds fucking crazy, right? It is, but it also isn’t. A large part of the pleasure of watching Upstream Color is the earnestness with which the director/writer/star/cinematographer/etc addresses his subject matter. Things just are as they are in this film, and it never feels like it’s reaching to make the events seem any bigger or smaller or–especially–gee whiz cooler than they are. When a worm is pulled out from your body and bated into a drugged up pig laying on an operating table next to you, goddamn right it’s scary. But when you look deep into the eyes of that pig with whom you now share an otherworldly physiological bond, it’s…well, it’s weird. But it’s the right kind of weird. Does that make sense? It probably shouldn’t. Things do get pretty sci-fi, but Upstream Color makes no effort to convince you that what is going on is interesting through the use of cheeseball pseudo-scientific dialogue or cut-aways to people discussing just how amazing these events are. You get to be the judge of how real or un-real this stuff is, and the evidence that you’re given to examine is pretty compelling. And in the end, well, let me tell you something you already know. It isn’t really about the girl or the worm or the pig, or any of the sort-of scientific goings-on that unite them. What it’s really about, really, is walking through the woods, alone, surrounded by other people who are also alone, together. Uh, duh.