Film Review: Richard’s Stanley ‘The Otherworld’ (2013)

Film Review: Richard's Stanley ‘The Otherworld’ Severin Blu-Ray
Richard Stanley has been such an impactful and celebrated filmmaker, writer, actor and all around mystical figure that floats between shadow and light. Having the honor of listening to him speak at the most recent incarnation of Fantasia as he revealed the stories of the film projects that have come and gone. His knowledge, his lore and legend are not smoke or fire, it’s the essence of a man who had found a path different than most. Returning back to Blairstown after the Market weekend, I found myself with an itch to experience, to be a voyeur perhaps to a dimension that Stanley only seems to occupy. I was lucky enough that the creative and talented minds at Severin ( sent over a copy of the last documentary that Stanley had written, directed and gave his living testimonial about an experience that had to documented even if no on would believe that this had happen to him. The surreal experience was entitled The Otherworld (2013) and after watching it twice and not doing drugs either time, I will try to do my best to make some sense of it.
Stanley and modern masters of storytelling have more than a gift to not only visually present these passions and impactful projects but its in their DNA to be able to assemble the puzzle before our very eyes. The Otherworld (2013) Blu-ray is incredible. As I am introduced and/or revisit films that have been restored by talented companies like Severin, I make it point to show respect to all parties by watching the package in its entirety if possible. The Otherworld is worth the watch. I will say up front (as I always do) that I hoped for more bonus content on the two-disc set. The Severin release, which became available this fall for me feels very lean on additional insight/interviews about this mystical journey deep in the French Pyrenees. To hear insight from the celebrated DP Karim Hussein or Editor Pat Tremblay or Composer Simon Boswell perhaps from those who recorded, mixed or cultivated the sound design? All these elements are so crucial to artistic expression in its entirety.  Whether the testimonials are in English or French, it would have been wonderful to go deeper behind the scenes. With my wanting to know more and a bit of greed for extras, I did enjoy what was offered with the additional deleted scenes, trailer for the film, the making of the film featurette and the additional disc of Stanley’s work.
To make sense of this film may be madness. At the core of Stanley’s documentary is the idea of belief. The Otherworld (2013) talks about this area in France called “The Zone” or I believe the French name Rennes-le-chateau. Within in “The Zone” we learn that magic, the power of the female and perhaps something paranormal lays within the land, ruins and a gateway that has an entity that has crossed over. Opening with a confession by Stanley about needing to document this experience, we don’t immediately jump into the fire of the conflict or obsession. Stanley, like the great storytellers of each generation, wants you to understand the meat, heart, skin and bones of this experience. Beginning with the locals to the area speaking about the history, we learn about the legend beyond what books will tell. Blending several different perspectives of experience and knowledge, Stanley weaves a tapestry that will culminate with himself, his partner Scarlett Amaris and the film crew not only documenting the experience but leaving changed. Why the commentary gets personal from Stanley and Amaris, Stanley expands the dialogue to include the perspectives from the local government officials, a man who has uprooted his life to live there as well as more voices in the surrounding areas that are affected on understandable levels by “The Zone.” This element, I felt it gave more texture to a surreal story.
One thing The Otherworld (2013) does very well with this powerful experience is it finds connection to all viewers in one way or another. This is a very personal piece by Stanley. It’s life changing, an epiphany. This personal connection as well as the more realistic perspectives from those who are exposed to the impact that “The Zone” helped to stay interested when I was ready to shut it off. Once I connected to the more business aspect and personal touch that Stanley infuses, I opened myself up to the masterful documentary Stanley and company had created. It also helped to take in additional elements then during the first viewing. Beyond the connection of the perspectives and storylines, I was blown away by the beauty of the locations. The way Hussein captures the levels, colors and space creating a painting of the world that rides the line of the fantastic. Whether it is, a more traditional set of camera techniques with the use of anamorphic lens or a GoPro or the infrared camera setup, the ability to create lush visuals with the variety of lighting makes the viewing experience worth it.
One of the smartest aspects of The Otherworld (2013) is the use of light. Opening the story with the portions of shadow to light on Stanley as well as the subjects faces creates a tension. While filming the different locations, the sunlight streaming down over the valleys and against mountains or the inside of caves with the light redirected in almost at times in a macabre dance feels like the different spins of kaleidoscope. This is married to the sound design, which in the open landscape is a challenge to not only capture the full scale but create an authentic listening experience. To be able to cultivate nature and manipulate the emotion. Boswell’s score also bridges fantasy/science fiction vibes with the more traditional style you expect from the area we see this tale unfold in. The score feels like a rhythm that is naturally coming from the earth.
As amazing as those elements are, special props to the unique and otherworldly Tremblay who brought this documentary together in post-production. An experimental filmmaker himself, his eye to understand the path Stanley is on and the wild beats of the story is crucial. Why I felt lost watching it at times, Tremblay was the compass that helped me through especially on the second viewing. The cutting between the various testimonials and presenting all sides. The landscape of “The Zone.” Capturing the journey and making it believable. The ultimate payoff of this film showed an editor who can not only see the whole picture but can assemble the puzzle with as much as wonder as the viewer should have. This talent is also reflected in the “Making of” featurette which was behind the scenes. The featurette is a wonderfully mesmerizing thirty plus minutes that is mostly score and various footage during different stages of the production. In all, The Otherworld (2013) is a trip. It’s awe inspiring, frightening, consuming and insightful which a documentary of the highest quality and most personal should be. Before we wrap this review and observation up, the Severin release of The Otherworld (2013) also includes a bonus disc that features Stanley’s introductions and commentary of some of these other projects that you can return to or take the initial trip down the rabbit hole.
Follow Jay Kay on Twitter @JayKayHorror & @HorrorHappensRS


Film Review: Richard's Stanley ‘The Otherworld’ (2013)
  • Film Review: Richard's Stanley ‘The Otherworld’ (2013)
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