Mark Webber’s The Place Of No Words

“Where do we go when we die?” It’s a simple question as any, yet not so much, especially for a terminally ill father to answer when asked by his son, who is young enough to still be inundated in the unknowable, lingering perception of whatever came before his birth, a state of innocence engulfed in the abstract, the early stage of images and impressions in which we all existed before ‘words,’ ‘thoughts’ and ‘facts’ eclipsed the feelings and we forgot what it was like to be to feel rooted in the spirit realm. Mark Webber’s The Place Of No Words sets out to tell us an impossibly heartbreaking story in as uplifting, lyrical and compassionate way as possible using fractured prose, fragmented editing and the most convincing visual, allegorical and artistic expression from the perspective of a child that I have perhaps ever seen in cinema. Remember when you were young and certain key, core memories, simple in themselves, contained entire worlds of meaning and significance greater and more profound than could be described? This whole film is structured around a few essential recollections just like that, belonging to a young child named Bodhi Webber, who is playing himself in one of the most naturalistic, inherently inspired, momentous pieces of work you could hope for. Writer director Mark Webber plays himself too as does his wife Teresa Palmer, and we get to see this family unit interact in the same realistic way they no doubt do away from cameras and the result is a captivating, authentic, immersive, deeply dreamlike experience like no other. Mark (in this story) is dying of an unnamed terminal illness, while Bodhi processes, rationalizes and deals with this agonizing metamorphosis the way any child does, by conjuring up a fantasy world to exist in that serves as prism projection of everything around him he’s too young to understand. Much of the film is spent with Mark and Bodhi as two sort of Viking knights, journeying through the lush Welsh countryside on a quest to find ‘Freeka Reeka Sheeka Deeka.’ They encounter a witch, an angelic fairy princess, two wooly ‘dog’ trolls, a knight (Eric Christian Olsen) who fights himself and make their way through a swamp that literally farts and poos geysers of chocolate sludge (such is the mind of a child). What really makes this film special is the editing and overall tone, which is all over the place in the best way possible. The transitions between the fantasy world and hazy real life memories come without warning or traditional plot structure and feel just about as organically synaptic as you can get. The performances, Bodhi in particular, cut deep and the decision to use real family members is something intuitively out of this world. For all it’s whimsy and fantastical charm though, this is an emotionally crippling film and if you’ve lost anyone to illness and are still the least bit raw about it, go into this guarded because it’s downright disarming. I can’t think of another film that uses a central performance, subconsciously felt editing and intense metaphor to place the viewer in a childlike state of mind so well. Brilliant, beautiful, masterful film.

-Nate Hill

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