The art of the mind-bending sci-fi film is alive and well with Vanishing Waves, a striking achievement from Lithuanian filmmaker Kristina Buozyte and a surprise award winner at numerous festivals including Fantastic Fest and Sitges. Scientific researcher Lukas (Jampolskis) agrees to participate in an experiment by submerging himself into an unconscious state where, via a new technological breakthrough, he can link with the mind of Aurora (Jutaite), a young woman left in a coma after a drowning accident. The connection works, but he finds himself becoming erotically and romantically entangled with her in their shared mental state, with hallucinatory set pieces piling up as he tries to keep the deep nature of their link hidden from the scientists observing him.
A visually stunning film with substantial emotional content to match, Vanishing Waves is a real treat for film fans as it contrasts the sterile research facility with eye-popping production design involving an opera house, a jagged beach house, a mountain of bare human bodies, and other unexpected flourishes. The basic storyline is essentially a riff on elements explored in other films ranging from Parasomnia to Inception to Beyond the Black Rainbow, but the execution is something wholly different. The heightened sexuality of the story gives it a palpable punch missing from many of its peers, and while the actual nudity quotient isn't all that high (even though that's what most of the film's promotion emphasizes), the two leads create an intense and believable relationship of both the body and mind without really meeting in person.
Artsploitation continues its hot streak with this, perhaps their highest profile title to date and a good intro for those new to the label's output. It's certainly one of the most accessible and gripping films they've released so far, and the two-disc DVD set serves it well with a fine anamorphic transfer. (Again, a Blu-Ray would be very, very welcome, but what's here should win over plenty of new fans.) The first disc contains the feature film with 5.1 and 2.0 audio options (with the first being the more effective), along with trailers for this film, Clip, Combat Girls, Hemel, and Wither.
Disc two starts with a massive extra: The Collectress, Buozyte's first feature, which runs 87 minutes and was shot on lower grade video. It's a considerably leaner affair as it paints a character study of speech therapist Gaile (Gabija Jaraminaite), who tries to overcome her emotional numbness through video shooting of herself and her surroundings. A seven-minute Cineuropa interview with Buozyte in English runs seven and a half minutes as she talks about her luck making a film in Lithuania (whose output is very small) and her cinematic influences like Antonioni. An 18-minute featurette behind the scenes alternates sound bites with the actors and footage from the shoot, including rehearsals in front of the camera. The entire soundtrack consisting of 18 tracks is also included, highlighting Peter Von Poehl's striking combination of ambient experimentation and some fascinating remixes and additional tracks (with text notes going into more detail while the music plays). The liner notes booklet contains a pair of interviews, conducted as usual by the incisive Travis Crawford; the first pairs up Buozyte and the film's co-writer, Bruno Samper, who was also "creative director" and "visual style author." Exactly what that means is explained in the chat, which also covers how they work together despite not really speaking the same language. (It involves Skype, among other things.) There's also a brief q&a with Jutaite, and the reversible cover includes a more provocative graphic design than the one on the front.