VIFF 2016: The Intestine (Lev Lewis, 2016)


Dark digital grain and hard lines of white light divide Lev Lewis’s The Intestine in two, separating the poor from the economically ascendant, the city from the suburb, night from day. But make no mistake, though these contrasts form roughly equal parts of the film’s ungainly shape, Lewis’s debut is haunted by the shadowier half; the ethos of night rules all things, even when the sun streams in through the windows.

Lewis’s heroine Maya, a twenty-something reject of late capitalism, steps out from her dingy surroundings one night and awakens the next day in an abandoned modernist money-pit somewhere in the ‘burbs. The cut that bridges the space between Maya’s evening on the town and her sudden emergence amidst bright bourgeois sterility suggests, initially, a particularly bewildering morning-after and nothing more. But things progress into stranger territory as Lewis conjures up some dreamy images—a refrigerator stocked solely with a boar’s head stands out, both for its strangeness and as a barb pointed at the foodie pretensions of the 21st century’s finer-living set. The hard-lit morning-after starts to look like a portal to another reality, a rabbit hole which unearths the phantasmagoric pleasures of the moneyed class. It’s no wonder that Maya grows increasingly unwilling to vacate her new digs.

This shapeshifting debut insists—a bit precociously—on inscrutability, but what finally emerges is a vision of contemporary young adulthood as life lived in envy of other people’s spaces. Eventually unemployed but always unradicalized, a single brush with prosperity is enough to spark Maya’s exurban aspirations (“I can’t go back to my apartment”). Maya finally makes the place her own, but as she sits on her bed repeating her name through the phone to a listener who cannot hear it, she appears to be drifting back towards the void. The light is fading, and a gleaming new home can only ward off the darkness for so long.