Written & directed by Adam & Boomer Galassi | Review by Helen Wheels
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Galassi brothers made an intriguing choice by filming The Know in black and white. While the expectation is that movies should be in color because black and white filmmaking may seem dated, the result the team achieved goes beyond nostalgia. Admittedly reminiscence is part of the draw for me. Every black and white film that comes immediately to my mind is a psychological thriller or horror flick, my favorite genres. Films like Hitchcock’s, Psycho and The birds, or Gaslight, a 1944 movie directed by George Cukor about a man who attempts to drive his wife mad by convincing her that she has lost her mind, are a few of my all-time favorites.
The cinematography uses black and white to throw us into a dystopian future where The Know is a giant media conglomeration that controls everything. Rolling thunder, blustery winds and a radio broadcast warning of a potential tornado sets the tone with a sense of impending doom. Our protagonist, Steven (Scott Bishop) wanders into the scene and frightens an unsuspecting fisherman (John “Fibber” Sefick), who grabs a large mallet while asking him over and over, “what’s your name?” Steven stares ahead, seemingly oblivious to the man’s questioning, and his obvious threat. “What – do – you – want?” Is he deaf? Does he speak the language? Or, is it something more sinister?
Perhaps the best comparison I can find to the Galassi brothers’ movie is Darren Aronofsky’s, Pi. A movie about a paranoid mathematician who searches for a key number that will unlock the universal patterns found in nature (IMDB). Much like Aronofsky’s, Max Cohen (Sean Gullette), Steven’s erratic behavior makes us exceedingly uncomfortable. His intense gaze and an ability to seduce others into giving him food, combined with his enormous appetite and the fact that he barely utters a word the entire time, makes us wonder what is going on with this guy? Is he an alien? However, as we come to realize, Steven is only a piece of the puzzle. The actual answer lies in listening to the never-ending commentary from the media outlet, The Know.
Steven seems more aware and certainly more affected than the other quirky characters who go about their lives oblivious to the mind-control that is dictating their existence. He is aware that he is being watched and sees as well as hears things that others cannot. Everyone is undoubtedly brainwashed.
Steven seems happiest, or at least not as menacing when he is spending time with his next-door neighbor, Clyde (Brian Thomson). It’s more as if Steven is controlling Clyde’s actions though, as he gives his neighbor the stare until the childlike man willingly brings over and cooks an entire weeks’ worth of groceries. Steven and Clyde cook, dance and watch TV together, but rarely speak. While the pair dance in the kitchen, like no one is watching, someone is — The Know is everywhere, watching their every move. The media giant is particularly interested in Steven because he has become aware.
Black and white, with its low-key lighting and high contrast, is an opportunity to focus the audience’s attention, with claustrophobic close-ups and wide angles that distort our perception. The brothers use this medium well to shape a world where our senses get assaulted by a constant barrage of media. While the lack of color maintains our focus on the story, the distraction of sound, the periodic announcement, “This is only a test,” and Steven’s erratic behavior keep us distracted.
As the interruptions in broadcast ramp up, the images on the TV become increasingly bizarre. Though Steven tries to maintain normality by going to work, eating and hanging out with his friends, he is noticeably wearing down. It seems as if The Know has targeted and is aiming to drive him over the edge. Not only is the company able to broadcast via TV and radio, but it is also as if they can infiltrate the individual’s world. Perhaps some of the characters that Steven encounters are holographs.
One of the enjoyable aspects of this film for me is its ambiguity which leaves the audience speculating the meaning instead of feeding it to them.
At its core, The Know is a commentary on media manipulation. Indeed, there are a handful of media corporations who control everything that we see from print to video and much of what is on the radio. According to Business Insider, six corporations that control ninety percent of the media in America. In 2018, we are losing net neutrality which, though there may currently be some illusion surrounding abundance regarding freedom of information, the ability to listen to, read or view anything that isn’t propaganda will become less likely as time goes on. The Galassi brothers warn us of this potentiality, and considering how well their film is doing at festivals around the world, people are listening.
Helen Wheels is an independent filmmaker, freelance writer, and visual artist. She has produced, directed, worked as a set designer and scenic painter, and has been an assistant director on dozens of films. Wheels graduated from Shoreline College with an AAAS in Digital Film Production and is continuing toward her MFA in New Media Communications. Known for her eye to detail and advanced research skills, Wheels is currently researching historical events for her latest script and is in the process of developing her online writing business.