Kasra Farahani’s “Tilt” is a compelling and sometimes spellbinding dramatic thriller about the American dream and the ideas about fulfillment and freedom. Set amongst the backdrop of the turbulent election that gave the Presidential seat to a wealthy and very loud mogul, “Tilt” is a sharp and often disturbing look at the disintegration of a man. “Tilt” is fairly simplistic but rich in substance as it depicts America as something of a stagnant pool where freedom reigns but nothing ever changes. Joseph Cross’s performance as a self important filmmaker and struggling artist is astounding, as he injects layers of frustration and anger at a world that he never fully comprehends.
Cross plays Joseph Burns an out of work filmmaker and stay at home husband who experienced a brief brush with fame after filming a documentary about pinball. He is a man who dwells on his past, and hopes to recapture some of that fame with a documentary that is painfully convoluted and derivative. Often times Joseph is a man who presumes he’s on a mission to take the cloak off the idea of the American dream and the concept of the golden age of the fifties. But he can barely keep anyone’s attention. That’s mainly because he’s not just recycling much of what they’ve heard in the past, but seems completely deaf to the current climate in his world. Joseph drowns himself in footage of fifties and sixties ads and media as a form of exploring their artifice, but gradually realizes he’s becoming mentally unhinged.
Things become complicated when his wife decides to re-assert their roles in their home, pursuing her career as a doctor and embracing a surprise pregnancy. Soon Joseph not only begins to re-examine the world he thought he knew, but finds his mental health is taking a toll at the massive changes presenting themselves. Farahani doesn’t so much discuss the ideas, so much as depict much of the emotional and mental turmoil Joseph is enduring through endless montages and subtle but disturbing ticks Joseph adheres to. Joseph doesn’t even realize it, but as he forms an obsession with the interviews and footage of 2016’s presidential candidate, he begins to find the normal scenery in his city as incredibly irritating, arousing violent urges in him.
There’s also the exploration of self-sabotage, as Joseph gives in to slight urges to injure his wife, including one moment involving a cat‘s bowl. Nothing in Joseph’s world has ever been as it seems, and the idea of the American dream seems farther out of reach by the character as he slowly rots to footage of the “golden age” of society, all the while succumbing to the howls of the “orange jackass.” “Tilt” is bound to be compared to another equally disturbing “angry white man” tale known as “Falling Down.” Director Farahani observes the rising tide of violence, resentment, and hatred aimed less at the fallacy of the American dream that is still promoted, and more on those standing in the fall out of a crumbling America. Where the fallacy of the “American Dream” is still embraced; which category Joe fits in to is debatable.
I hope audiences look for “Tilt” when it’s made available, and give it a fair shake. It’s an unsettling, and engrossing gem.
Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.