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Review: How Heavy This Hammer

It is a very difficult task to review the film How Heavy This Hammer by Toronto’s own Kazik Radwanski.

The phrase “Your mileage may vary” feels like slightly inadequate way to describe the film though it provides us with a possible entry point. The film is a difficult watch, quite like Radwanski’s previous film Tower. The scenes are shot incredibly close, past the point of intimacy, beyond voyeurism, and to the point of making the viewer feel unsettled. Secondly, the film is a slog. It features a character for which it is tough to elicit sympathy, (Erwin, played by Erwin Van Cotthem), and focuses tight on watching him watching a screen.

The opening offering and the closing scene feature essentially the continual capture, a tight look at Erwin’s face, the reflection of which is a knock-off strategy computer game. The opening finds some classical music swell about a minute in, making it clear that this scene is shot and scored with craft in mind. Yet the craft captures a world that the typical viewer may be viewing himself or herself. It takes watching and being watched to a whole new level.

The action, so to speak, isn’t much to speak about either. There is little conflict and far too much static (and even a brief appearance by fellow York graduate Matt Johnson does little to liven up the proceedings). It is clear how much skill Radwanski puts into the endeavour, (and his actors are willing). This spirit of capturing a (perhaps wasted) moment in time never makes the film sort of watchable in the sense that the viewer longs to find out the resolution. In fact, perhaps this response itself is the resolution, forcing the viewer to place the mirror up to herself or himself and honestly say “what am I doing with my life that escapes the mundane reality of this film?” The viewer may also ponder how looking at a phone or playing a game, (and this film was created before augmented reality had taken hold) make hI’m or her any different than this average-looking (at best) blob of a man onscreen.

The heaviness of the question lingers after the movie’s brief running time ends. This is not a film that requires a repeat viewing, and perhaps not even a single view. That is, unless puts hammer to nail and re-examines actions that he or she puts forth daily.

[star v=4]