Written and directed by Aaron Schimberg
Starring Jess Weixler, Adam Pearson, and Charlie Korsmo
Runtime 1 hour, 31 minutes
by Rosalie Kicks, The Old Sport
“We are all blind in certain ways.”
Remember “the kid” from Dick Tracy? I blinked and almost missed him. Honestly, my eyes are on the way out these days, so that could have been the reason he almost snuck past me. Got me nervous frankly. How will I watch movies if I am as blind as a bat?
Fortunately, they do make corrective eyewear, so my movie watching days are far from over. I hear once I get glasses, it will seem like a whole new world. Colors will be vibrant and I’ll be able to see things I never saw before. Things that may have been right in front of me.
Blindness is a focal concept throughout this film. Lack of sight may be thought about in terms of the way we as a society comprehend the world and people around us. Some of us are taught to be accepting of others, yet many have no actual comprehension of who these “others” really are. Instead, assumptions are made based on what we have seen or heard, rather than having any true interactions.
In Aaron Schimberg’s Chained for Life, he makes a movie within a movie to examine our social farsightedness. The story centers around the interaction between a stunning actress Mabel (Jess Weixler) and her deformed costar Rosenthal (Adam Pearson - seen in Under the Skin). The character Mabel plays, is initially blind. Through an operation that resembles more of an experiment one would find in a flick during the downturn of Bela Lugosi’s career, she gains her sight. Having vision she is not only appalled by her surroundings but is terribly disgusted.
The story’s film crew is making a horror flick set within a dingy mental hospital circa 1940s. It gives the impression to be somewhat of a B-movie as the character, Herr Director (Charlie Korsmo, the aforementioned kid, who apparently hasn’t acted in two decades) is making his English language debut. He isn’t afraid of multiple takes...cause heck, he is shooting digital anyways. This method of movie making adds to the overall cheap feel of the story. This is only felt more by the exploitative way in which the characters with disabilities are portrayed as monsters, and able-bodies are idolized.
Schimberg utilizes the movie within a movie concept to share that the story isn’t actually too far from reality. Making a movie within a movie is my definition of torture. Isn’t it hard enough to make just, ya know, one movie? This guy made two (several, in fact). However this concept works so well to deliver the ideas of acceptance that Schimburg is examining, especially in regards to disability and the portrayals of these individuals on screen.
The audience is given a bird’s eye view of the entire process of making this film - from the multiple scene takes, cast interactions and downtime. The story utilizes reality and dream-like sequences to share the idea of acceptance. This method will more than likely keep viewers on their toes, wondering what is real or not.
This could be especially said in regards to the relationship between Mabel and Rosenthal. In witnessing her interactions with him, it seems she may have feelings for this down to earth gent. However, time later tells it may all have just been an act, pretending to understand to get the perfect take.
When the movie opens a quote from late film critic, Pauline Kael scrolls across the screen regarding actors and their beauty. Remarking that we love to look at them. I suppose we do, but we never really know them despite our misconception that we do. We just know their silver screen version.