If you’ve never taken psychedelics before, it would be hard for someone to describe to you the feelings that you get, the things you see, and the way the world can look. No matter, though. All you need to do is watch Jeremy Westrate’s first feature-length film, Franklin: A Symphony of Pain, and you’ll instantly know what it’s like to see the world through a warped perspective of a surreal nature.
Visually speaking, Franklin is one of the best movies I’ve watched in a long time. Its use of color and blended images, color and black and white visuals, and acid trip-style montages are amazing. Westrate uses these complex pictures to tell the story of Franklin (newcomer Nikolas Franklin), a young man who is dragged through countless scenarios of violence, rape, and torture.
His story is told through these surreal settings and situations, mixed with a voice-over narrative as he recalls the events and explains them to Father Hyde Pearcy (Greg G. Freeman, Actress Apocalypse), a man who may or may not be exactly who we think. The film plays out over an hour and a half, giving the viewer a continued sense of dread about this offbeat, perpetual darkness Franklin is living. It’s the greatest form of darkness, though, in the sense that we are watching a sort of madness unfold into a dirty, dark, and depraved mindfuck.
The story itself, which is credited to Richard R. Anasky, was written for the screen by Anasky, Westrate, and Sean Donohue (Die Die Delta Pi). It’s a hodgepodge of plot and perversion, with the content, violent or otherwise, and the intense visuals driving much of the film. That’s not to slight the film in any way, mind you, but watching the movie, you feel a constant sense of despondency, one that’s hard to shake even as the movie comes to an end.
The film’s poster for the premiere and eventual Vimeo release has a warning that states that the film features highly explicit scenes, some of which have never been photographed before. It’s definitely true that the movie is graphically violent, but I can’t say for sure that anything in the film is new to the genre. Regardless, even if the movie was never going to break new ground in its scenes, it certainly blows away anything else I’ve seen in its visuals and its themes.
Overall, the movie is a masterwork of independent thrillers. The acting is excellent across the board – even as many of them are merely mask-wearing psychos who have few to no lines – and newcomer Nikolas Franklin as the title character is perfect. He brings the character to life, forcing the audience to feel for him as he is brought down over and over again. The writing and filmmaking are top-notch, and the cinematography is amazing. Franklin is definitely a must-watch, and director Westrate is a relatively new filmmaker who clearly has big things on the horizon.