“It is the mind that gives our world color & sound with its store of images. That supremely real & rational certainty which one can experience is, in its most simple form, an exceedingly complicated structure of mental images. Thus there is, in a certain sense, nothing that is directly experienced except for the mind itself. Everything is mediated through the mind; translated, filtered, allegorized, twisted, & even falsified by it. We are enveloped in a cloud of changing & endlessly shifting images.” ~Carl Jung
Treading the waters of one’s own mind is a daunting feat. The complexity of human consciousness is a vast & bottomless ocean yielding currents that allow each of us to experience external reality through the filter of sensory perception. The magnitude of these experiences provide a basis for what we interpret as corporeal property; tangible matter existing apart from mind. We assume this corporeality on the basis of faith, as we’ve no means to experience it directly without the sieve of sensation. Likewise, we presume that other fellow human beings exist autonomously, undergoing their own independent experiences of mind & matter. We cede this postulate as a matter of practicality, being that we’ve no way to experience reality through someone else’s psyche – but what if we could? This is the concept Lithuanian writer/director Kristina Buožytė undergoes in her literal head-trip of a film, Vanishing Waves.
The synopsis: A neuron-transfer scientist experiments with the thoughts of a comatose young woman.
Meet Lukas (played by Marius Jampolskis), a neural scientist who is testing an experimental process intended to monitor the psychological state of a comatose patient, Aurora (a namesake taken from the film’s original Lithuanian title, played by Jurga Jutaite) who has become unresponsive following a near-drowning accident. The intent of the experiment is to impartially observe Aurora’s unconscious mind, but like all good stories go, events don’t play out quite as planned. What was designed to be an observational process quickly becomes a surreal interaction of sorts, luring Lukas deep into the dark subconscious of Aurora’s fractured personality.
While segments of the film occasionally surface to anchor the reality of Lukas’ personal life at home with his girlfriend & professional life in the laboratory with his scientist cohorts, the bulk of the film is spent within the dreamlike realm of Aurora’s mind. It is in this purview where we’re inundated with vivid imageries & vacillating metaphors, both of which grow darker & more complex as our protagonists become more entangled. These visceral frameworks include empyreal shorelines & ominous oceans, spacious open rooms & claustrophobic corridors, lavish hors d’oeuvre & lustful carnalities, warm rays of light & foreboding black holes – all woven together in a stream-of-consciousness flow equal parts compelling & confounding.
With visual cues taken from the likes of Kubrick, Tarkovsky, Dalí, & Escher immured amid the confines of a Lynchian meets Cronenbergesque tone, Buožytė’s presentation builds on the aesthetic archetypes of these influences while forging a mode of expression entirely her own, gracefully balancing the line between homage & ingenuity. Thematically, the film delves into concepts of trauma, repression, sexual identity, & the extensive chasm between Id & Ego. Even despite its heavily hypnagogic rhythm, Vanishing Waves is stealthily sufficient in washing up wide-ranging emotional spates, largely due to the fact that unabridged empathy is often the only lucid stave to grab hold of in an atmosphere predominately abstract.
Jung was eloquently accurate when he described our conscious existence as being enveloped in a cloud of changing & endlessly shifting images. The same could be said for Vanishing Waves, a juggernaut of surreal cinema that emulates the crest, trough, & abstruse intermediate of the mind – it challenges us to dive inward for comprehension of the external, a journey terrifyingly beautiful, & one that examines what it means to be human.