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:: Gerry

Like director Gus Van Sant’s Palm D’Or-winning Elephant (2003), Gerry is also inspired by a true story. Shot two years before, it’s about two friends, both named Gerry, that get lost in the desert. But this film is not about the struggle for survival, or even a cautionary tale. And despite the star power (Matt Damon and Casey Affleck, who co-scripted the film with Van Sant), it’s the desert that’s centre-stage.

Initially, it’s the eccentricity of the Gerrys that dominates. Despite their lack of water or any essentials, they banter – creating intriguing compound nouns like “dirt mattress” and “shirt basket”, and the verb “to gerry”, meaning to screw things up. Which, of course, they have.

Gerry is a slow-moving film, and not to everyone’s taste, but it is worth your patience. The drama of the situation has been down-scaled, sentimentality removed, so that when emotions are expressed, it becomes particularly poignant. Composer Arvo Pärt’s music blends seamlessly with silence and the cinematography to present a stunning variety of unfriendly landscapes – rock plateaus, sand dunes, boulders and stunted trees.

One of the most memorable scenes shows the Gerrys trudging, side by side, firstly in unison, then alternating, then back again. This is just one of the ways Van Sant staggers time, which emphasises the uniqueness of the Gerrys’ fearless response. Is it bravery that strips away their fear, or an essential carelessness? Perhaps they are just getting on with the business of living.