Souls of Totality Review

Souls of Totality brilliantly captures the intensity of a looming moment that can change everything. A story of its own, this stunning film portrays the sacrifices we make for love. There is a universal struggle we all face when doubt eclipses our beliefs, leaving darkness and silence. “Souls” is a beautiful and haunting reminder that the universe is always talking, igniting words we aren’t brave enough to speak.

Story

Director Richard Raymond drops viewers right into the heart of this smart, refreshing film centered around a cult. Though someone has held down the fast-forward button to get us here, it feels anything but confusing. The only thing lost in translation is the running time. Barely eighteen minutes of two captivating souls tangled inside a clever cult story that aligns with a fleeting eclipse? Somebody took the saying “leave them wanting more” just a little too literal with this one. If you think this hinders the film in any way, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the uncomplicated storyline.

Forbidden love and cults seem to go together like crushed pills and Kool-Aid, but “Souls of Totality” is so far removed from these assumed storylines. Instead, a tired old tale is effectively overshadowed by this curious and suspenseful film. It grips viewers with believable characters inside a steadfast group of followers and their undeniable belief of a greater existence.

As the plot moves along at a steady pace, viewers get just enough information about all the blended details that have led to the events set to occur on this specific day. We understand these people are members in a cult, and fully believe their souls are going to be saved and moved to paradise. They’ll leave behind the complications and simplicities of this life, including ear pimples, whiskey, white guys with dreads, and Necco Wafers. Lady 18 and Guy 3 will also have to leave their secrets behind, ones that begin to tempt them to trade a greater experience in the beyond for one that has already started here and now.

 

SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS

 

Spoilers

Cullen and Maslany’s genuine and moving connection in the final five minutes ignites the screen all on its own. Overwhelming and gripping, their emotional reunion is centered around several remarkable shifts. Filmed in a one, single, extraordinary take under 2017’s solar eclipse – YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT AND YOU NEED TO READ IT AGAIN AND PHYSICALLY ABSORB THIS INFORMATION. The entire last five minutes of this film was shot in one, steady take – because, spoiler, you can’t reset a solar eclipse if someone fucks up their line or blocking.

Maslany steals the scene from the eclipse, inducing clusters of small strokes as she races to stop the inevitable. Maslany and Cullen together steal the scene from the realization that the rest of the cult members drank the Kool-Aid. Their silent, lifeless bodies are spread among grass that’s shadowed by the moon shadowing the sun. Covered in white sheets, all but Guy 3 and Lady18 are now ready for their supposed reward.

Anticipation moves with the moon, along with a breeze that punctuates the end of the eclipse. The wind-blown sheets reveal a startling conclusion as Lady 18 and Guy 3 embrace each other in relief. Gone are the bodies of those that embraced the beyond.

Leaving the skeptics behind, they start a new life after claiming their promised paradise.

Characters

Charming and engaging, the interactions between Guy 3 and Lady 18 go beyond convincing. They bring authenticity to the endlessness of religious cult films. Neither are extreme in their beliefs, or even in the doubt that’s always present, but not exactly realized. Each questions their existence inside the cult and outside of its borders, knowing there isn’t always a solid answer. The uneven balance of acceptance and conflict is portrayed, without love being the reason why.

Cinematography

Souls of Totality contains a five-minute single-take sequence shot during a real solar eclipse, a first in cinema history. While this information alone might catch your attention, the entire film delivers beautiful cinematography. Filmed in Oregon, the open landscape narrates the feeling of promise, adventure, and beginnings. The view of what’s to come is uncluttered, the possibilities as wide as the land.

Soundtrack

Absent of songs and the chaos of too many instruments used to cause paranoia or high blood pressure, music isn’t necessary. The beating of a drum fades and intensifies throughout the movie, it’s presence acknowledged with different feelings. Guy 3 tells us it’s used to cast away the darkness, otherwise the eclipse won’t happen. Music floats in and out of the film, but it’s the natural, unforced sounds of life that enhances every significant scene. Lady 18’s shallow and stuttered breathing when she’s running towards a moment that we all know is impossible to reach. The crackle of the tape, and the eeriness of the voice whose words set everything into motion. Guy 3’s distorted hearing because he’s wearing ear plugs. All of these are insignificant sounds until something significant happens.

Genre

Short. Romance. Drama. Sci-Fi. Indie. Any and all of these are correct. It’s hard to find a film that can’t be specifically labeled, and this is all the more reason why you should watch “Souls of Totality” on Vimeo on October 16, 2018.

Final verdict

Already a fan of both Maslany and Cullen, I knew the odds were in my favor to like this movie. Still, I found myself mesmerized by their performances as two cult members in love. Why? Because Maslany and Cullen are actually a couple.They’ve also acted together in several projects. But as much as we love when our favorite actors are dating AND working together, we want the characters in the movie. I love Tatiana and Tom, but when it comes to the couple in the movie, I want to believe their characters as part of the story. Having watched these two as a couple in “The Other Half”, and then seeing their performances in “Souls”, it’s quite clear that Maslany and Cullen can handle what it takes to make an on-screen relationship believable outside of their own off-screen.

In addition to stellar acting, “Souls of Totality” is unique in how it leaves interpretation open for its viewers. Despite being a film about cult members that commit suicide during a solar eclipse to save their souls, religious references are absent. There is no hidden agenda and whatever religion or higher being the cult believes in is never mentioned. Everything we are told or shown is done with a perfect balance, and is understood without having it shoved down our throats. Cults are fascinating, full of questions, and tend to leave us more intrigued when trying to understand them. Quite like how “Souls of Totality” left me feeling.

AWARDS & OFFICIAL FESTIVAL SELECTIONS 2018

OSCAR/BAFTA/BIFA QUALIFIED 2019

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL — (SPECIAL MENTION FOR DIRECTION)

RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL — (NOMINATED BEST SHORT FILM OF THE FESTIVAL)

RHODE ISLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL — (“WINNER” MOST POPULAR FILM)

HOLLYSHORTS FILM FESTIVAL — (“WINNER” BEST FILM GRAND JURY PRIZE)

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL

PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL SHORTFEST

CALGARY INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

MILL VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL

ATLANTA FILM FESTIVAL — (NOMINATED FILMMAKER TO WATCH)

CINEQUEST FILM FESTIVAL — (WINNER MAVERICK SPIRIT AWARD)

SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

24FPS INTERNATIONAL INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM FESTIVAL

SAN JOSE INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM FESTIVAL

BEND FILM FESTIVAL

MILWAUKEE FILM FESTIVAL

CORONADO ISLAND FILM FESTIVAL

Good

  • Appealing characters
  • Smart and creative twist on cult storyline
  • Thought-provoking and intriguing
  • A fascinating and explosive tale of all of life's mysteries

Bad

  • The end will leave you wanting more, except there is no more
  • Lots of questions and no answers will bring many sleepless nights
  • Limited viewing options
10

Perfect

Story - 10
Characters - 10
Cinematography - 10
Soundtrack - 10
Genre - 10
C R E A T E D T O C R E A T E vb local || writer || author || fiction editor || girl-skater || celiac disease warrior 1. Helena is my soul sestra 2. I Have a Deathwish 3. Elephants 4. I only write on days that end in 'y'
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