For I Am Dead Shakes You Into Present: Film Review
Madrid native filmmaker Patricia Delso Lucas haunts the inner spirit in her spooky surreal 19th century time period piece, For I Am Dead. Oscar, a wealthy recluse lives out his ennui with wine, courtesans and opium. His innermost desire to confess his love to his gardener, Jude manifests one day, the same day that Jude appears to curse Oscar with impending death, or at least it seems, that is the mind trick Oscar plays upon himself.
In his battle for life, Oscar does not seek help from others, and further becomes isolated in an environment meant to leave him for dead. As a wealthy man, Oscar has access to the world, and yet has led a sedated life without meaningful relationships or experiences. His darkly lit, eerily sparsely furnished mansion has all the space in the world, yet nothing to fill it.
The cinematography led by Dominika Podczaska is breathtaking. The sweeping wides of Oscar’s enormous estate appear stunning. The sparseness of the production design led by Lucas herself seems to highlight the empty space within Oscar’s own self. The sound design and string and woodwind forward soundtrack gives the film a forlorn tone. Every production element feels purposeful. Lucas is a true auteur.
Al Nazemian as Oscar offers a complex portrait of privilege and pity. His omniscient voiceover is pained and reflective. Co-star Jude the gardener, played by Riggsby Lane, is both alluring and mysterious. He plays both a perceived version of himself, a person who through magical realism can be the harbinger of death, a tempter shaped by Oscar’s perception. But he is also just a young man, an innocent gardener who doesn’t know what to do except offer his sympathies to his master through a kiss on the forehead. The performances are nuanced, natural, and engrossing.
The courtesans also add a haunting atmospheric element. They understand who Oscar is at his core. They talk and act toward him as though he were a cursed, doomed being.
The production asks a question that spans cultures: does having wealth mean you will lead a worthwhile life or does a life worth living require purposeful existence in the world? It’s easy to ruminate on this while young with time on your side, but to face it as Oscar faces it, middle-aged and alone is something entirely more painful.
For I Am Dead reminds viewers the importance of living purposefully. It reminds us that there is no time like the present to discover who you are meant to be in the world versus letting the world pass you by to leave you living in regret.