The Rambler – A Reflection by Erik Johan Strand

Attending the Sundance Film Festival is a really cool experience because it grants an opportunity to see some really interesting, creative, and well made films. Then there are films like The Rambler. I honestly wish I could submit my review for this film in the form of an interpretive dance, because I am not quite sure mere words can capture whatever it was I witnessed playing on the big screen. But alas, if written word is the only viable option I am allowed, I shall attempt to describe it as best I can. The movie starts with a montage of The Rambler, played by Dermot Mulroney (of My Best Friend’s Wedding fame – go figure), and the audience is exposed to a few quick flashes of his time in prison. Next, we see The Rambler released, and as he passes through the prison gates and rambles onto the dusty dirty road that lay before him, faint glimmers of light can be seen in the blue sky accompanied by a small chiming sound. I know it sounds weird, but this isn’t even the tip of the very bizarre iceberg. The Rambler, whose name we never come to know, reunites with some friends as well as an apparent lover and takes up the job he held at a convenience store, previous to his prison sentence (also, never mentioned). After, receiving less than welcoming reactions from everyone, including his lover’s proclamation she is pregnant with another man’s baby, The Rambler hits the road after being prompted by a letter from his brother who has graciously offered him a job to work on his ranch. From this point on, there is really not much of a discernible plot, but more an amalgamation of strange, and often grotesque, occurrences. To list a few, there are heads exploding, mummies, monsters, approximately two whole minutes of the protagonist being vomited on by a woman who looks as though she has been transplanted from The Exorcist. Oh, and several inexplicable deaths and cringe-worthy injuries. I would say this film would qualify as probably a (9) on the “mainstream vs. independent spectrum” because it takes note of every mainstream convention in filmmaking and then proceeds to vomit all over it for approximately an hour and a half. The emphasis placed on imagery and creating an emotional, albeit terrifying and disgusting, experience certainly lends it an experimental feel. There is also a distinct lack of cohesive narrative or clear conclusion, two elements found in all but the most independent films. Although, the film is not cleanly sewn together by a progressive development of The Rambler’s story, I must admit, I feel as though the style granted me a better understanding of The Rambler’s character. He is clearly a conflicted man with no place to call home. Even after he reaches his brother’s ranch, he quickly decides to return to the road. One of the few overt references to anything of thematic substance in the film is a discourse on Frankenstein by a random taxi driver. Just as Frankenstein’s monster was crafted together in macabre fashion and subsequently vilified for his existence, so too is The Rambler crafted together by his disturbing experiences on the road. By the end of the film he has acknowledged the depressing reality that he will never reintegrate into normal society and instead finds himself alone in an abandoned house where he comes face to face with the greatest horror the film has to offer: the morbidly disfigured monster that was once, seemingly, the only woman he truly loved. In the movie’s final note, The Rambler sets the house aflame and calmly grabs a stool and plucks a somber tune on his guitar, the only song left in his heart, amidst the flames…

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