Originally published on The National Student on 13/04/15.
After sweeping numerous film festivals since the back-end of 2013, British indie drama Frequencies finally lands on home soil this week, offering a mixed-bag of grand ideas and loose-fitting visuals.
Delving deep into the never-ending wormhole of ideas that the science-fiction genre offers up, low-key Brit director Darren Paul Fisher craftsFrequencies around a very basic notion: our world is predetermined. Questions of fate and destiny no longer apply; every action has been pre-programmed, based around a set frequency given to every individual which chronicles how lucky they will be in life. The higher the number, the better your outcome.
The film’s narrative takes on the path of Zak (Daniel Fraser), a young boy brought into the world with a negative frequency, who swiftly falls in love with the highly-born but emotionless Marie (Eleanor Wyld). If the two spend longer than a minute together, their frequencies clash and fate interjects in the most obscure way possible, leaving Zak the task of finding a way for the pair to be together – a task which takes him to the very outer-reaches of human understanding.
It’s clear to see that this central concept of Fisher’s is a broad one, that certainly requires a significant level of thought to unravel fully. Whereas the intricacies of it are toyed around with throughout the film, it’s really only after the credits have rolled that you can begin to actually get a handle on exactly what he’s getting at. On the surface this may seem like a criticism, but in reality it’s anything but. Frequencies digs far deeper than is first understandable, rooting itself rather subtly throughout its plotting and thus making multiple viewings almost a necessity – something which clues it into the same camp as the likes of former-Sundance favourite Primer. This is intelligent indie sci-fi at its most thoughtful, re-writing our very own understandings of life and the universe to great effect.
Where it begins to depart from this almost Carruthian vibe however, is in the film’s actual production. Fisher’s script and vision are solid, but his actual execution is anything but. True, for a high-concept independent British picture like Frequencies, the budget is likely to be insanely low, but whereas others embrace this factor, Fisher simply does not. Fundamentals such as the film’s sets appear lifeless and flimsy, leaving a mise-en-scene so depressingly sparse that Fisher’s subtly futuristic world tumbles down around it. This, glued together with some unimaginative camerawork results in a feature-length effort that lacks almost any cinematic flair, leaving it to appear as nothing more than a well-honed but visually-drab student film.
Thus, in spite of some chirpy performances and a positively profound key ideal, Frequenciesultimately fails to ever overcome the feeling that it’s simply the work of an ambitious amateur – although one who may well be able to make some serious waves if given the right crew and backing. Whereas others have attempted to dig into the ideals of destiny before, few have approached it as level-headedly as Fisher does here, and for that he deserves to be highly commended. All he needs is a little money, and we could well have a British Shane Carruth on our hands.
Frequencies (2013), directed by Darren Paul Fisher, is released on DVD in the UK by Signature Entertainment, Certificate 12.