EARTH (Leif Peterson, 2010)

“Earth,” which Portlander Leif Peterson wrote and directed, is a horrible film—strained, pretentious, self-congratulatory, insipid. In the viewing, its twenty minutes seem like 90 minutes.
     Peterson recasts the story of Cain and Abel in the nineteenth-century American West. Adam, the brothers’ father, completes the trio of characters. There is a general contrast between the open spaces of the setting and the crabby nature of the boys; the implication in this dialogue-less film is that a causal connection exists between the uninviting landscape and the bottled-up natures of the three humans. In any case, both landscape and characters seem implacable.
     “Earth” is sort of a silent film; sounds are sparse, underscoring the myth-dictated elemental lives we witness, and the spare score consists of intermittent ominous chords that seem to whisper, “You know the story.”
     The opening shot, in which metallic sparks appear in an expanse of total nighttime darkness, promises a worthwhile film—but, the promise broken, that film never materializes. We indeed know the story, and the only thing here is the story—with the clever change that God does not inhabit this “Earth” and that Adam, as a consequence, must do double-duty as father and God-figure both. In such a context, Adam’s ultimate rejection of Cain, who is no less his son than the favored Abel was, is irritating and offensive. Everything about “Earth” is cold and shallow.
     The “performances” are inadequate even as the minimalistic things that were intended.
     There is no meaning to this “Earth,” no purpose, no point, except perhaps for Peterson to doodle in the absence of a heart, a mind and a soul.

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