Shane Carruth wows again with Upstream Color

Categories: Film and TV
Courtesy erpb Film 
Folks may want to brush up on Henry David Thoreau's Walden: (Or Life in the Woods), as what it has to say about retreating into nature provides a key element in Upstream Color, a new film showing at the Walker Art Center this Friday and Saturday. Much like Thoreau's classic, the movie draws its subjects out of their consumer-culture immersed lives and pulls them into a much more primal state of existence.

Courtesy erpb Film 
The film comes from director Shane Carruth, the genius behind the cult hit Primer (2004), a story about a time machine made in a garage by a couple of young engineers. Upstream Color deals with magical worms that make any person who ingests them subject to mind control. 

Like Primer, Upstream Color may require several viewings to figure out what exactly is going on. And even then, it's purposefully constructed in a non-linear, abstract narrative that both frustrates and delights. 

Amy Seimetz plays Kris, an ambitious young woman working in the film industry who is attacked and force-fed the magical worms one day, making her under the power of her attacker. She enters a hypnotic state where she is denied food and is made to do various tasks, including hand writing the entirety of Henry David Thoreau's Walden, rolling up the papers and creating chains out of them. Her captor, played by Thiago Martins, then manipulates her into believing her mother is in desperate need of help, so she takes out numerous loans against the equity of her house. 

Courtesy erpb Film 
Her captor eventually allows her to eat, and then leaves. The food makes the worms inside her grow and poke through her skin. Through sound, she's drawn mysteriously to an obscure location where an old man (Andrew Sensenig ) draws the worms out of her and into a pig. She eventually makes her way back home where, once back to normal (sort of), she realizes that she has no money, and basically has to start again from scratch. She then meets Jeff (played by Carruth). The two find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other, to the point of sharing the same memories. 

As Kris and Jeff journey to discover the mysteries of what has happened to them, they simultaneously uncover the life cycle of themselves, the pig farmer, the villain, and the magical worms that aid in making the flowers by the stream shine with vibrant color. They are just one part of a larger, complex organism filled with beauty and power.
Courtesy erpb Film 
Seimetz shines in her performance as Kris, transforming from a fast talking city person to someone who is completely vulnerable, filled with childlike curiosity and pure emotion. Carruth, too, is highly engaging as an actor. But perhaps the most interesting performances come from the smaller roles of Sensenig and Martins. 

While this film is definitely a mystery, it's not action packed. The pace is slow, and with little dialogue. In fact, there is no talking whatsoever in the last 15 minutes. It takes some degree of concentration and patience to get through it, perhaps deliberately. Like Thoreau's Walden, the film forces you to experience the images of nature, guiding you to reflect on humanity's relationship with the earth.  


Upstream Color
Walker Art Center
7:30 p.m. May 10-11; 4 p.m. May 11

Location Info


Walker Art Center

1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Film

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