Gus Van Sant’s “death trilogy” started in 2002 with the unique and intimate film, Gerry, kicking off a run of small, super low budget and very internalized pieces of work, which also included 2003’s Elephant and Last Days in 2005 (while similar, 2007’s Paranoid Park isn’t officially part of this unofficial grouping). Certainly not for all tastes due to the unconventional nature of the narratives, these films found Van Sant in total artistic mode, essentially searching for answers to questions where answers might not ever be possibly found. Purposefully slow paced and based on true and very tragic events, Gerry unfolds in an elliptical manner, with two main characters drifting in and out of the narrative like spectral creations who never feel truly tethered to the here and now.
Matt Damon and Casey Affleck play two lost souls (literally and figuratively) who wander the Utah dessert, get lost, have ruminative discussions about the meaning of life, wander some more, and then, well, you’ll have to see the film to learn what happens by the end. What I will say is that this film is intensely private, it lends itself well to watching while under the influence of psychoactive substances, it doesn’t care if you don’t like it, and the cinematography by the late, great Harris Savides is visually sublime; his work on Elephant and Last Days is similarly striking and challenging on an aesthetic level. Van Sant has credited the work of filmmaker Bela Tarr as a heavy inspiration when making Gerry; the film is dedicated to the memory of Ken Kesey.