SOURCE: Director Scott Cohen

Director Scott Cohen

December 04, 2014 04:46 ET

Love Among The Icebergs: Scott Cohen's Movie, Red Knot, Starring Vincent Kartheiser & Olivia Thirlby

Theatrical Premiere at IFC Center, NYC, December 5-11

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - Dec 4, 2014) - Red Knot, Scott Cohen's directorial feature debut, is an extraordinary movie about ordinary lives, filmed aboard a research vessel traveling to Antarctica.

With stellar performances from Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men), Olivia Thirlby (Juno), and Billy Campbell (The Killing), this narrative feature film pulls us into a hyperreal journey across the Southern Ocean. Kartheiser and Thirlby play newlyweds on an unconventional honeymoon. In the opening scenes they seem very much in love. But on board the ship, in inhospitable surroundings, with only a small group of strangers for company, their personal ambitions quickly push up against their respective notions of marriage. This sets the stage for the mounting sense of tension that gives the film its emotional force.

Scott Cohen's background is as a photographer, and it shows. Every frame of the movie feels carefully composed. These are moments you want to hang on a wall. At times there is something frightening in the precision of the cinematography lensed by Cohen's Director of Photography, Michael Simmonds. The camera captures startlingly sharp shots of icebergs and churning seas. In other instances, when the relationship at the heart of the film demands a subtle shift in tone, a nostalgic softness blurs the edges of objects, as it does in many of the images in Cohen's recent New York exhibition, An Unfinished Ballad. The viewer's sense of certainty is destabilized. How well do Kartheiser and Thirlby's characters really know one another? How well do we know them? And what impact will the presence of a handsomely laconic Captain (Billy Campbell) have on their journey together? Secrets begin to stir under the surface.

Part of Red Knot's remarkable richness lies in the film's exploration not just of marriage but of the very notion of confinement. The tight, dreamlike world of the ship, which Cohen's cast and crew inhabited for 23 days, creates an eerie sense of claustrophobia. Every surface is aslant. Passageways are thin. Access is through small unaccommodating doors and lovers are stacked in bunk beds instead of lying side by side. Portholes may be designed to admit light and air, but they do so only in the slightest slivers. The cumulative effect of this atmospheric setting, and of the excellent central performances of Thirlby and Kartheiser, is to raise the idea of marriage as a place of safety, but also of potential suffocation. The movie pits the slow-moving security of the research vessel against the vastness of the landscape beyond its hull, asking us which life the lovers will choose.

Red Knot, which won this year's FIPRESCI Grand Jury Prize at the Seattle International Film Festival, manages to be a romantic movie, but its Romanticism comes with a capital "R." There's an interest in untamed nature, and in emotion as a source of aesthetic experience. It invites us on a journey that raises questions about our relationship with one another and with the ends of the earth. "I feel a bit out of place," Thirlby's character says at one point in the movie, and visitors to the IFC Center may experience a similar sense of dislocation. The film -- at once a travelogue and a portrait of a marriage, set against the vastness of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica -- is as satisfying as it is unsettling.





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