A film that does not expose, critique, or hate death, but instead peacefully complies with its all-encompassing contract, allows for it to act as a backdrop for all documented life, Quicksilver Chronicles is an exquisite, splendid portrayal of life preceding death, but succeeding itself. What a beautiful, unexplored, dusty corner of this country the directors decided to give space and light to: a small, uncoif lifestyle, authentic, unstaged, and graceful. The habitants are a participating part of the habitat, their eyes acting as its own eyes, their breath, its breath. The narrative, subtle yet profound, contrasted its contemporaries in tone to such a degree that I found myself unsettled. It was a welcome break in the usual bombardment of heavy content, violence, and volume, relying instead on stillness and nuance.
Throughout the film exists this odd juxtaposition between a young, working, desperate audience and an aging, tired icon of sorts escaping the madness within the hills of rural California – Kate Woods herself. It creates this off-putting, tense atmosphere when the so-called plot of the film is inarguably soothing and kind to the heart. If you look for danger or action, you will not find any. This is unfamiliar territory for an audience member – a New York inhabitant at that. Any afternoon walk to the bodega involves harassment, and any modern day film includes at least one good brawl or a single explosion. This documentary takes a silent observatory stance and remains there, unwavering, unthreatening like a robin. It creates this uncomfortable atmosphere of anticipation specifically for our viewing class, who have normalized the threat of bloodshed to such an impressive degree that surprises and jump-scares are nearly always unsuccessful. That nervous energy is considered all the more useless at the presentation of Kate’s death – unpleasant and saddening as it was, grisly details and shortly thereafter footage were left out (even the grieving process, something stomachable but disheartening and perhaps emotionally hyper-personal for the tone of the film, was largely unseen). This force of peace and delicacy is a strange combination of effortless and strong-headed, qualities that rather well describe the personality of its protagonist.
During the discussion, a preemptive concern was voiced: when the setting was revealed to be rural and rather desolate, and the people revealed to be older and white, far-right Republicanism was expected to follow. Immediate distaste for the characters based on the surroundings and unconventional human form and beauty when nothing inherently offensive is being said or done speaks to the class and race separation in this country: black vs white, rich vs poor, north vs south. Even as an insider, I found myself nervous for the slipping of an offensive term or sentiment. Many films in the post-Trump era involve harsh critique of one party or the other – relevancy equals profitability you know – and, to offer full-disclosure, I was not looking forward to ninety minutes more of political engagement. I grew up in largely conservative environments; many of my childhood friends and their parents identify as Republicans and align with the what I believe to be a problematic notion of superiority due to birthplace or language, what they believe to be unalienable rights. Post-Trump America has experienced an isolation of those communities from others who differ in thought or background, and witnessed the creation of two teams: those who voted correctly and those who voted incorrectly. This lack of unity has worn me out of political discussion and what I’m calling “unwarranted Democratic holiness”. That being said, my attempt to tune out whatever election-centric debate was supposedly on its way and my classmate’s rather classist assumptions – our general, inherent lack of trust towards the film’s cast – only emphasized the country’s lack of unity, a characteristic of Kate’s own 1960s. I cannot decide if this was a purposeful side-product of the film; the director certainly appears to be intelligent and detail-oriented enough to pull that off, but whether it aligned with the film’s overarching purpose or message or not has yet to be decided.
In other words: watch this movie, and think about nothing else while you do it.