I don’t tend to get along with films that avoid a clear narrative in favour of throwing stuff at the screen and hoping it sticks. For the most part, what’s the point? Other than being nice to look at – and the editing here is rather good – your audience aren’t going to get much out of it without reading deeper into your efforts in the hope that they find something, anything, that might redeem the feature.
And, well, 88:88 is another example of a film that I didn’t get along with. It smashes together a collage of random images and sounds in quick succession, with something in the middle about the life of teenagers. There’s some hip hop/rap stuff in there as well, and lots of whispering. And I mean LOTS of whispering.
I have hearing problems, so whispering through dialogue or layering different people speaking over one another doesn’t do me any favours. It alienates me from the film immediately. It’s a shame too, because the whispering mostly contains poetry and I’m not averse to a bit of that on occasion. The audio cuts out quite frequently too, which made me question whether it was my hearing, my television, the stream or the film itself that was the problem. Turns out it was the film. Relief all round.
In terms of the visuals, it presents a disjointed kaleidoscope of images as if plucked from the mind of a schizophrenic teenager. That might have been the intention, to reflect modern life as a succession of quick cuts and unrelated audio clips. Life is uncertain and there are no guarantees, and you could argue that this is represented through 88:88’s anarchic structure.
If this was the intention, it doesn’t work.
After 10 minutes I was sat there wondering if this was a work of genius or pretentious twaddle. After the full 65 minutes I fell firmly in the latter camp. The film’s director Isaiah Medina has talent, but I’m not sure it’s best placed in a feature like this. Narratively dense, smart filmmaking is perfectly fine and I applaud those who can make films that ask real questions about life and existence. The title references both the impoverished (clocks flashing after a power cut) and the concept of infinity (the number 8), but I didn’t feel that was clear from what I was watching. Then again, I might just be the wrong type of person to get something from a film like this. For the record I’m a fan of Godard’s work and the existentialism of Herzog, so I’m not entirely out of the loop on stuff like that.
Overall it’s almost like hypnotic suggestion. It’s not necessarily a film you need to pay direct attention to, you can just let it wash over you. And if that’s what you’re left doing, it almost destroys the purpose of making a film in the first place. If you can sit through the full 65 minutes then you’ve done well, although your life won’t be any better for it by the end. You won’t have achieved enlightenment. You won’t have learned anything meaningful. An episode of Geordie Shore would probably give you a deeper insight into the human condition.
88:88 is not so much provocative as an addled mess that lacks purpose beyond its own air of pretension.