Noon, Friday, Oct. 4, Lon Chaney Theatre(screens with Six Letter Word); 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 5, City Auditorium
Apparently inspired by a true story, Mad Ship looks like it really wants to be Terrence Malick's 1978 Oscar-winning Days of Heaven (well, minus the magical voiceover treatment), but feels a little more like a clunky Grapes of Wrath restaging. (In Canada!)
Writer/producer/director David Mortin walks a well-trodden path thematically, blending the somber immigrant's tale with Dust Bowl-era bank-versus-farm tensions that undo a hopeful family. There's no spoiler in saying that, because almost everything in the film is telegraphed before it happens.
A Victrola appears over and over again as a heavy-handed symbol and if you're looking for a little JC allusion in tragic main character Tomas, you'll find that too.
To its credit, the 94-minute film includes talented actors in both Tomas (Nikolaj Lie Kaas, from the original Danish series The Killing, which inspired the American remake) and Tomas' wife Solveig (played by famous-in-Norway actress Line Verndal). Both speak some Scandinavian tongue — cue subtitles — throughout present moments and flashback sequences to whichever cliff-and-bay homeland it is from which they hail.
Where the "true story" element becomes interesting is when Tomas goes mad (hence half the title) and builds a ship (the other half) to, um ... well, you'll see. That's also not ruining anything because you'll see the big beast in the opening scene. On the whole, Mad Ship isn't entirely without merits, but it's a little slow going. And no filmmaker does the Great Depression without inspiring a little of just that.
Click here for complete Indie Spirit Film Fest coverage.