Sally Potter’s film Rage is an odd hybridization of film and theatre for curious audiences interested in one or the other. I’m not sure that was what she intended (if so, she made no mention of it on the sole interview in the DVD’s special features), but it works and fails on both levels. She explains on the interview that the film’s concept (which I’ll get to in a minute) was really born out of necessity inasmuch that the budget of the film needed to remain low and the saleable actors she wanted, needed shorter production times.
Rage is about the high-fashion world and garment industry and is seen completely from the subjective point of view of a young (apparently chubby) blogger named Michelangelo. We (the audience) never see Michelangelo, because we are Michelangelo. It’s troubling at first, but you’ll get used to it. The 97 minute film then proceeds to be told through a jumble of solo interviews with various people in and around a fashion event that is taking place in the background. Each of the interviews is filmed by “us” (Michelangelo) with our “cameraphone.” This is one of the failures as I see it, because the film is clearly not shot on a cameraphone and doesn’t feel like it much at all.
Additionally, each interview is shot against a green screen which allows the interviewee to each have a unique bank of blinding color behind them. There is one lighting set up and it looks to be tungsten as it flatters and eviscerates any character who sits before it. Irises flare up their colors like little LEDs, and skin becomes so alabaster or clean you almost feel imperfect yourself when watching. Basically, it’s a fashion show – even in the interview room.
Technical notes aside, one has to wonder how a young chubby blogger gets a green screen and is able to take it and himself to the backstages of a high fashion event to talk – on the record – about some of the things that he does. The plot basically unravels initially as a mystery, when a young model is somehow killed on the runway by a freak scarf-motorcycle accident. This, of course, starts freaking everyone out and at the same time peaking others interests, such as the marketing people behind a new fragrance simply called “M.”
A couple days later the producers of the event decide to put on an encore (maybe in honor of the dead? – maybe as a marketing ploy? – it’s never fully explained), at which we (later) come to find out the fashion designer Merlin, has employed guns as part of the dress-up. It’s not ever really made clear whether the designer had guns as part of the show, or whether one model just decided to bring her own with which she ultimately used to kill herself – apparently on stage. So, again, another mystery and period of fright and mourning for the people we see constantly interviewed.
Anyway, if this is getting confusing for you, you’re not alone. At this point in the story, it has trouble deciding which way it wants to go and what it wants to say. That, coupled with the fact that it takes a lot of resolve to sit through these interviews basically hearing recounts of what happened the day before while other things occur in the audible background in real-time, makes for a challenging film that you really have to pay attention to just in order to remain confused.
Rage would be better suited to a live setting, one in which the actors could sit in front of the audience and talk at them and thereby draw in the viewers on a level that is not really available to us by virtue of the film medium. A gunshot heard in the background of a theatre during the stage-play, and while a neurotic bodyguard (played by John Leguizamo) squawks at the audience, would be much more powerful in that setting than in the controlled environment of a movie screen, where even though we are supposed to be there – for some reason, we never believe that we are.