Cult Cinema: The Eternal Present (2004) - Reviewed

The micro-budget do-it-yourself black-and-white lean mean indie film has proved to be an important introductory chapter to many a filmmaker’s illustrious careers.  Among those which immediately come to mind include David Lynch’s Eraserhead, Richard Elfman’s Forbidden Zone, Tom Huckabee’s Taking Tiger Mountain and Darren Aronofsky’s πFlying under the radar in the mid-2000s was art-school dropout turned filmmaker Otto Buj’s peculiar but intriguing little 16mm black-and-white number The Eternal Present, a student film destined for the midnight movie circuit with an eventual cult following.

Told in a fragmented, elliptical perspective, the film follows a young obituary processor named Tim (first-time actor Craig Gloster) who becomes ensnared in a web of intrigue involving the death of an elderly woman he may or may not be responsible for.  As his paranoia grows while more people he comes into contact with wind up dropping dead, Tim’s own foggy point of view becomes increasingly surreal, leaping rapidly between past, present and future with premonitory visions of a deep state which may be the key to the bizarre deaths he’s caught up in.

Running a mere seventy-seven minutes, The Eternal Present treads a fine line between experimental innovation within the thriller genre and collegiate arthouse pretension.  Lifting heavily from such notable French New Wave influences as Godard, Resnais and Rivette, newcomer Mr. Buj admittedly rips off of all the right people but at the same time turns over a still startling debut with a striking leading actor.  Craig Gloster isn’t much of an actor but whose lanky figure so closely resembles Conrad Veidt’s iconic villain from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari he winds up giving a performance worthy of a horror film.

Though an obvious sophomore effort, The Eternal Present nonetheless is an interesting exercise in experimental filmmaking.  Fans of do-it-yourself guerrilla filmmaking will find much to enjoy here while others unaccustomed to this kind of weird underground movie will tire of the film’s many extended black screens and jagged, hyperkinetic editing.  Yes, Otto Buj’s film is indeed derivative of other homegrown gritty black-and-white thrillers but for a first-time director he shows promise.  Not a masterpiece but a curious little movie sure to take you the viewer down dark cinematic alleyways both familiar and uncharted.

--Andrew Kotwicki