I enjoy black & white films that dare to look like they were filmed in an earlier era. The 4th Dimension (2006) is about Jack (Louis Morabito, who was ideally cast) who seems to slip into another dimension while he sleeps, or such is his own explanation of his wild dreaming. In Jack's Eraserhead inspired world, it's not always clear what is really happening, but it appears that for our oddball hero, time is discontiguous.
In his waking life he works for an old man in a fix-it shop. In flashbacks we see he had been, as a child (Miles Williams), certainly strange & possibly brilliant. As an adult, however, he seems to have some sort of high-functioning autism, with many obsessive-compulsive tics, & lives alone in the big house he grew up in.
Old Emma (Suzanne Inman) invites him in her house, despite his antisocial nature. He becomes in some vague manner connected to the broken clock in Emma's house.
When he strives, despite warnings, to repair the clock, he discovers hidden within its case the last diary of Albert Einstein (Gregg Almquist), wherein Einstein came closer than history knows to a unified field theory that embraced even the supernatural.
With his briefcase, he sets out to visit an abandoned haunted madhouse, filmed in the actual Byberry Asylum Philadelphia State Hospital.
Therein he finds a dimension of color, & the film is no longer in black & white; this world may be closer to our own. A woman in one of the cells has a briefcase for him, exactly like the one he already has.
[SPOILER ALERT!] The briefcase is full of tattered medical reports about his former life as an inmate before the institute closed. And the mystic diary from the clock was never Einstein's but his own. The realization that he is insane is a terrifying revelation.
A caseworker has been trying to track him down. She finds him in his old room in the closed institution, where he is still trying to repair time "so I can see my mommy again."
Now this revelation is to some degree a cheat. We're given a build-up of events & possibilities that do not resolve into anything that required those particular ingredients. The two all-purpose endings that can follow any series of random crazy events are "it was all a dream" or "the character's insane, none of this is real," neatly bypassing any author requirement to resolve a reasonably plotted story.
Nevertheless, once in a great while the cheat works; & The 4th Dimension is stylish enough to get away with anythiing. [END SPOILER ALERT]
Though "not for everyone" leaps to mind, this certainly is for anyone who loves the absurd, the between-genre experiment, the visually beautiful, the expressive & strange. If you are not apt to be put off by strangeness for its own sake, get this film. It really is the Brothers Quay meets Lewis Carol, & could well frustrate as many as it enthuses, but I for one find it most recommendable.
Continue to the next madhouse:
Astral Factor (1976)
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl