Posted by Alia Haddad on April 26, 2012 at 8:58 am
Benjamin Dickinson’s feature film debut, First Winter, premiered at the 2012 TriBeCa Film Festival to some controversy. While the the film freely depicts sex, drug use and death, the biggest controversy came from the filmmaker’s decision to authentically (and illegally I might add) film the killing, skinning and cooking of a deer. As I’ve never hidden the fact that I pretty much support the “animals are best eaten or worn” statement, knowing that this movie portrayed the real killing of an animal did not turn me off from the movie, and instead just made me want to see it even more.
And see it I did. First Winter tells the story of a group of Brooklyn hipsters living in a commune-esque remote cabin when a severe winter hits and they lose power due to a vague, possible apocalypse. Think Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros stranded in a cabin somewhere surrounded by extreme weather. Possible apocalypse added to the real killing of a deer for sustenance AND a commune thrown into the mix for good measure? This sounds like a formula for a good movie to me!
And a good movie it was. Filled to the brim with actors who will probably count this as their first big hit, First Winter was very successful in the authenticity department. Rather, everything seemed very real– the acting, the dialogue, the plot points, and even the lighting (turns out Dickinson only used natural and candlelight). Even the emotions expressed by each character were on point when one thinks of what a Brooklynite might do and feel during an experience of similar proportions. Sounds too good to be true?
Well, to be honest, I did have one issue. First Winter seemed to be based solely in realism– what it would really be like for this group to be stranded in the midst of a severe winter apocalypse, hence the very real killing of a deer. And so when moments of realism where suspended, such as people floating while meditating, it was a very jarring experience. One that instead of adding to the film, took away from the experience and jolted you out of the story of the film. Is this enough to ruin the film?
No, no it is not. Not even a little bit. First Winter stands as a great debut feature for Dickinson (or anyone), and remains a film that sticks with you. What more can one expect from a festival favorite? Not much.