I’ll start by saying that, I don’t think this movie is for everyone. In fact, A Measure of the Sin (2013) might not be for a lot of people. I went into the viewing of this movie blind. I didn’t even read the synopsis. I wanted a fresh, open mind. And to be honest, I’m not sure that the synopsis would have made a difference:
Every childhood is normal to the child who lives it. For Meredith that means an enchanted seclusion that is shattered when she is deprived of her mother. Desperate and alone, Meredith must join a household with other women and their children, a sinister man who controls every facet of her existence, and a vicious bear that only she can see. As life in this world becomes increasingly strange and frightening, Meredith realizes that she must flee, even though she fears she has not learned enough to survive on her own.
It sounds simple enough, like a hundred other movies out there. Is it a cult? Simply an insane man? Maybe Meredith is crazy, and she’s imagining everything? What’s up with the bear? To be frank, over the course of the movie, I didn’t get any straightforward answers.
The movie has a very surreal quality to it – a dream-like quality. There are some very lovely shots and beautiful camera work. The movie is very visual as opposed to dialogue-driven, and I will admit to feeling lost and confused during the movie. On the other hand, the end and subsequent reflection makes things much clearer – though I think, for me anyway, there are still just as many questions as there are answers.
From the synopsis, I imagine Meredith to be very sheltered and naive. Instead, what I got was a determined young woman, though one that seemed lost and alone. She appeared more innocent than ignorant. She lived a very structured life – one filled with sadness and loss.
The vicious bear mentioned in the synopsis threw me a bit, but upon seeing the film, it’s easy to see just exactly what the bear is – a metaphor. And your sympathy for Meredith deepens.
When the final credits rolled, I sat back in my chair and thought about my review. My immediate fear was “Did I interpret things correctly?” So I decided to take a chance and email the director, Jeff Wedding. He got back to me almost immediately. I was happy to see that I was able to discern the story he was trying to get across, yet I still wondered at his mindset when making this movie.
Xina: Did you set out to make such an open-ended film – one that relies more on visuals as opposed to dialogue and a more concrete storyline? Or in editing did you feel this way worked better?
Jeff Wedding: Absolutely. Kristy’s story ended the same way in terms of ambiguity. That was one of the main things that drew me to the prose. MEASURE was actually the second story in a trilogy. ARMS THAT HOLD ME BACK (the scenes with the mother and daughter) was the first, and THE HOUSE STILL BREATHES was the third. The last story was a great one, but from a cinematic storytelling perspective I felt like it solved a few too many of Meredith’s riddles. I like open-ended codas (if done properly) in movies, so that’s what I was after. I also like using atmosphere and imagery to tell portions of the story just as much as I do with actors saying lines of dialogue. I feel like we have too many films today with people spouting off the story rather than showing us the story. That, to me, is what radio programs are for.
Xina: I understand it took you almost six years to make this film. Ever feel like giving up?
Wedding: Never. I certainly got down on myself, and was VERY depressed, but I don’t give up on things, especially not something I had worked so hard on.
Xina: What about this particular work did you feel so strongly about?
Wedding: Kristy has written one of the most dark and beautiful things I have ever read, which I feel like I’ve transposed quite honestly to film. For me it’s a film that had to be made as well as a nudge to challenging the form is some aspects as far as style, tone, and crossing genres.
Xina: If there is anything else you would like me to add, anything you feel imperative for our readers to know, please let me know.
Wedding: The fact that it is available to purchase here:
the more people that see and enjoy the film is the only way us indie filmmakers are able to continue making films — there has to be some kind of demand. I appreciate everyone that buys/rents the film.
Whatever my thoughts on the movie may be (more on that in a bit), I agree wholeheartedly with Jeff. Independent filmmakers are just as important as the mega-blockbuster studios. My way of differentiating between the two: If I want to see explosions and big effects, I’m going for a blockbuster; But if I want heart, I’m looking at the small film – the one that is truly a labor of love. And I think that’s exactly what this movie is – a true labor of love. I admire the tenacity of the writer (Kristy Nielsen), the director (Wedding), and the star (Katie Groshong) in making this film. They believed in their product, and they pushed forward.
And what they came up with is a beautifully atmospheric film – one that may not be for everyone, but tells a story nonetheless. Unfortunately, because of the way the story was told (so many flashbacks and not in chronological order), this is a movie that I think is going to appeal to a very specific type of viewer. I got something very different than what I expected, and again it’s hard for me to say whether or not that’s a good thing. I’ve sat on this for a day, thought about the movie, and though it isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, I can appreciate the simplistic beauty of the movie itself. In a book or a short story, I don’t mind the stark visuals and open-ended interpretation, but in a movie, I want something clearer. I want questions laid out, and then questions answered. But, hey, that’s just me!
I can appreciate a story told as a way to create certain visuals, as opposed to a more traditional dialogue-heavy storyline. I do think some movies look to create certain images in the viewers’ minds – be it to shock us, scare us, make us think, or make us cry. But I need to be in the mood for that, or the beauty of this type of movie is going to be lost on me.
On the other hand, this is a movie that creates some very shocking moments, and though I wasn’t necessarily in the mood for an “art” film, the starkness of the movie combined with the chilling ending certainly left an impression. And though I can’t be positive that’s what the director was going for, leaving an impression is going to make me talk about this film. And it’s going to make those I talk to wonder. And isn’t that the idea?