Directed by William Stancik / Reviewed by Antonio Rozich
Stancik’s 8-minute piece Hegel Road might be a bit on the obscure side for anyone who isn’t well- acquainted with Hegelian dialectic. However, if you don’t mind brushing up your philosophy knowledge, all pieces should fall into place just right. The key is not to expect too much. And I don’t mean from the movie, but from your own philosophical understanding.
The plot is rather simple – it involves three characters having a conversation in the woods during what seems to be a post-apocalyptic era. Although, it’s more likely that the surrounding is there to fit the movie topic and esthetics (thesis?), rather than a post- apocalyptic setting being vital to the film itself.
Costume designs reflect the esthetics (hazmat/space suit and plague mask), while tension rising music and use of faded colors enhance the feeling of impending doom. Also, leaden sky and silver shade of the main character’s costume create a sense of merciless, dystopian world.
Stancik apparently wanted to set the stage for philosophical exchange between his characters following the example of cult classics such as The Seventh Seal. Which is funny enough, since it’s arguable that existentialism (the leading philosophy in Bergman’s classic) wouldn’t be what it is without Hegel and his work.
But, unlike in The Seventh Seal, everything is presented in a less symbolical and more simplified way, having in mind that his characters don’t go into deep discussions and they raise questions rather than answer them. Which, granted goes along with Hegel’s dialectical approach, constantly replacing one argument for another. Transferred to humanity and a Hegel’s quote used in the film: “man is nothing but a series of his acts.”
The mundane and the metaphysical are intertwined in a slightly inept way in this short film. It’s hard to correlate the main character’s mission (choosing and killing victims as a way gaining credibility in a futuristic world) with repercussions of Hegelianism. I find it crucial to follow the dialogues attentively, as they hold the keys to understanding this post-modern piece.
But same as the post-apocalyptic setting, it’s probable that the protagonist’s goal and actions haven’t anything specific to do with Hegel’s philosophy. The protagonist and the other two characters are used as tools to present Hegel’s theory, rather than them living through Hegel’s theory.
Nevertheless, it’s important to dissect the plot. In a nutshell, the main character is accused of taking shortcuts to achieve what seems to be a dignified position within a new world order. The other two characters make fun of him in an intellectual manner he can’t fully comprehend, which creates a sense of distress and confusion.
He starts to reflect upon his recent acts and his feeling of self-doubt becomes overpowering. But unlike in the dialectics of Ancient Greece, the character doesn’t reach higher points of realization. Instead, he’s left to wobble in the same starting point.
The sense of being tangled up in philosophical concepts which are larger than life and threatening more than the actual violent acts he committed make the main character wither away from the psychological point of view. He doesn’t know what’s coherent anymore.
Another element that adds to that is the overdramatic voice tone of one of the characters. His “antithesis act” contributes to the surreal surrounding, protagonist’s unease, and plays perfectly into the overall film and the state of confusion. The character representing the synthesis is a manifestation of Hegel himself and thus, a meta-character. Previously, I said the characters are the tools to present Hegel’s theory, but the third character transcendences
that role. As the synthesis, he’s Hegel himself. Or to be more precise, Hegel’s representative by using Hegel’s words to make sense of the conundrum.
If you’re a fan of films that dwell in philosophy and post-apocalyptic surroundings, you’ll find Hegel’s Road satisfying. The lack of a conventional plot and its “straight-to-the-point” approach, allows you to ponder about the film long after it’s over.
If you’ll come to any conclusions is up to you, but remember, discovering the truth is an action of a great person.