I remember a speech someone gave in one of my high school classes which posited the question, How do we know that life goes on when we leave a room? How do we know that the world doesn’t just shut down at every place where we aren’t? It was one of those deep-dish, easily provable queries that kids of this age tend to like to challenge themselves with as they start feeling around for the borders of their own experience. And I was reminded of it slightly, though on a much more sophisticated level, when I saw my friend Peet Gelderblom’s new film Out of Sync. As Peet puts it on his film’s web site:
“I’ve always been curious about what happens to a room as soon as you leave it. When you share a space with someone, you look each other in the eye and form a bond. That bond is physically broken when you walk out of the door. No matter how intimate it got in there, you’re no longer in close contact. Suddenly, all you have left is trust.”
Out of Sync, though not itself an inaccessible, didactic experiment, seduces the audience right out of the gate with an ethereal weave of sound design that immediately gives way to a disconnect of sound from imagery. Over a close-up of a wife turned away from her husband in bed, staring into space (at us), we hear a prickly conversation we presume to be from the night before, the confrontation which may have led to the chill in the morning air between these two, which may be an isolated incident or symptomatic of a rut into which their relationship has fallen. The conversation continues under the imposed silence of their daily routine, so by the time the husband makes his way to his morning commute we have already been primed for the phone conversation that provides the soundtrack for the drive— the wife speaking with her lover as they prepare for his arrival, the stud passing the cuckold on the street as they speak. (This stud gets the movie’s funniest moment too, a cock-of-the-walk tracking shot that could stand alongside Tony Manero and “Stayin’ Alive” for absurdly heightened sexual bravado.)
Peet’s light-footed achievement as a writer-director is to cast himself as a kind of seductive force, leading the audience to form conclusions based on what we know and what we think we know about this married couple based on how the images and sound are juxtaposed. It’s a breezy, often visually ambitious (though not ostentatious) and funny film that packs a lot of influences into its brisk 10-minute running time— De Palma, Chabrol, the brothers Coen and Dardennes, even a touch of the airy visual elegance of Vincent Minnelli make themselves known as threads in the fabric that Peet weaves into his own audacious blend. (His director of photography, Rogier den Boer, works subtle miracles with the digital RED camera to give the movie a richness that belies its tiny budget.) But it’s the sound, augmented significantly by T.J. Kong’s original score (based on the couple’s telephone ringtone), that supplies the movie’s gossamer connective tissue and Peet, proving himself to be a fine conductor, brings the emotion of the film to a fully unexpected crescendo by making each word, each noise significant in its own particular way. Out of Sync is a lithe, playful, haunting film, and it offers plenty of evidence that Peet, already an accomplished television director in the Netherlands, has with this one film mastered the short form. He’s ready for his feature-length close-up, Mr. De Mille.
Peet is taking the movie on the arduous festival trail at the moment, and the film’s Facebook page will allow you to keep up on all the latest developments, including when and where the movie will be publicly available for viewing. (Go ahead, do it—become an Out of Sync Facebook fan!) The movie’s official web site also provides an excellent look at Peet’s ideas about the film, lots of stills, and a wonderful look inside the making of the film which, for me especially, was a real treat. I’ve known Peet for five years and only just this past fall spoke to him directly (a video conference via Skype) for the first time, so to get this glimpse into what it’s like on a Peet Gelderblom set was a unique privilege and the perfect confirmation of what I’ve known all these years—that Peet is a terrific, friendly, welcoming and very talented fella.