Raindance Film Festival: The Ninth Cloud

Directed by Jane Spencer
Starring Jean Hugues Anglade, Michael Madsen and Megan Maczko

by Joanna Orland

The Ninth Cloud is an existential comedy drama set to a backdrop of London’s prime hipster turf, Hackney.  Zena (Megan Maczko) is reminiscent of a young Charlotte York in the midst of an existential crisis and psychotic meltdown.  While her behaviour would be considered as erratic and worrisome in our reality, in the film’s she is merely a dreamer who is pondering the meaning of life and finding meaning where there isn’t, such as in her “relationship” with American artist Bob played by the wonderful Michael Madsen.  In addition to Bob, there is a gaggle of supporting characters, all underdeveloped yet prominent in this story.

The film focuses primarily on Zena as she wanders the canals and warehouses of Hackney trying to escape the grief of losing her parents in a plane crash.  She becomes obsessed with Bob who tells her he is gay in order to escape her admiration, while still leading her on in every other way possible, except physically.  Zena meets an array of pretentious artists, some French, all narcissists.  Bob is still the apple of Zena’s eye as she believes he holds the key to her meaning of life.

While the film is primarily about Zena and her pondering, the group of other characters detract from the storyline without ever being fully developed into their own true people.  The subject matter of this film is unfocused as too many ideas are being explored with none actually being examined thoroughly.  Between existentialism, classism, realism and delusion, there are just too many topics for one film to cover properly.

With some of the ideas being lost in the film’s sprawling nature, the glue that binds this film is Hackney.  The architecture and landscapes are the perfect backdrop to the fantastical delusions of the main character and the struggling artists in search of meaning to their existences.  This is very much the mood felt in today’s Hackney and this film depicts it perfectly.  If characters and topics were to be edited from this film, it could be restructured to deliver a more focused and empathetic exploration of a delusionist’s search for meaning to her existence as she wanders about in a setting brimming with paralleled authenticity.

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