Snowflake, or titled in German Schneeflockchen, is one of the best films I have seen over the last two years. At the heart of it, it is a passion project driven by a group of talented minds that took a long, long time to finally come together. As I watched it for the first at the 2017 Ithaca Fantastik film festival, it was clear this film is a pure happenstance of beauty and insanity. It is also a film that may be one of the most difficult projects to review. For that, like the film, I am going to go a different route to shed some personal light on Snowflake.
For the last three years, I average close to 20 genre film festivals a year. Depending on my stay at each festival, I watch as many films as possible. Does it always work… no. Sometimes I am fully engaged, sometimes I in and out, and sometimes I am there in presence but not much more. I tend to try and focus on primarily genre films which are not as known as others so I can give support to the films that fall through the cracks or need that boost. As part of my journey each year, I have certain pillar film festivals that I attend for one reason or another. These festivals are important for a various reasons such as lineup, networking, film selection, and so on. The Ithaca Fantastik in Ithaca, New York, is one of those festivals usually in early November. Not only is the Cineapolis Theater a high-quality venue for picture and sound but the town surrounding the festival is a wonderful backdrop for arthouse, experimental, genre, and foreign programming.
Going back to Snowflake’s screening, I made my way into theater number three to watch that faithful November afternoon. For those who have not seen Snowflake yet (and you should as soon as you have a free moment), it is a fable of revenge and fate between hit men, victims, orphans, gods, cannibals, psychopaths, dictators, families, superheroes, vigilantes, and a dentist. Look at it now, it feels like that box of misplaced puzzle pieces that all seem to fit even though they should not but they do. The story begins with Tan and Javid having some food at the scene of a brutal killing. They talk about whose donor is better and how shitty the food is that they are eating.
Throughout Snowflake, the creators make you unsure towards these characters. Basically, the entire cast of characters except for maybe a couple, live in that grey area of morality throughout the film. That is part of the connection you build with the film and the charm of Snowflake. It is the mark of well-crafted films when you care for these characters no matter how their actions or intentions either way. Watching it for the first time on the big screen, you build a bond because they are the focal point. With each additional viewing, they endear themselves to you. You live and die with the various conflicts they endure. The main character arcs are interwoven between Tan and Javid and the orphan and the family friend Carson. The orphan is on a mission of vengeance against the people who killed her family and Carson is assisting her to where she needs to find people who are worse to hunt down the killers. Once these events are set into motion, you are introduced to characters that range the gauntlet of unpredictable too noble to insane. As odd and larger than life this rogues gallery feels, you never get a full back story on just about any of them. For this film, it suited me just fine as the each one plays a role of some importance and never feeling like they are throwaway. With Snowflake being a vengeance story, the creative minds are allowed to do what they need and bring in any sort of character that is needed because when it comes to vengeance, anything goes.
One of the strong suites for this film is the interaction. The structured dialogue is clever and unpredictable. I cannot say that about many low budget features. Many genre films especially are too busy addressing visuals but neglecting character substance. This includes the dialogue that may make or break a scene or a character or even the film. Unlike this type of the ‘common conversational’ dialogue which has failed in some recent features (Halloween 2018) and succeed in others (Pulp Fiction), the chemistry and delivery of this dialogue enhances the enjoyment of the story and builds a connection to the characters. Part of that connection is how each character has their uniqueness and quirks we see throughout. Many are unexpected like that an ability to fight or lifestyle choices or beliefs. It feels almost like a pot luck of ingredients that just happen to all fit.
The films cinematography, lighting, and locations look better on the big screen versus the blu-ray. Watching it on screen, you can see how a quality dslr can make the difference on a budget. It shows with the detail that comes across even on the most typical if locations. Shot on a Canon Eos 5D Mk Iii, this is a feature that made the most with the resources and budget they have. The film has a larger than life feel on the screen that is lost some on the TV. Not to say that it is not worth watching it on blu-ray, even with the loss and limitations it needs to be seen on the big screen. The idea of space in each sequence counters perhaps a better angle. The variety of gun play sequences are full of high energy and are impactful. No matter up close (in the club where they meet snowflake) or within more space in the warehouse type location, the Canon helps with capturing the action and effects of the sequence.
The sound and score for Snowflake adds another layer. During my theater screenings, the sound mix was fully engaging the audience. This is something that translated with the design and mix to the blu-ray. I made it point to listen in theater, through speakers, and through headphones. For a low budget feature, it captures all the detail needed to add that extra layer to a ride of a film like this. With a film that has so much gunplay and comic book style action and violence, the sound handles what it needs to. The film’s score did not capture me as much as I had hoped. It fits where it is needed and adds the emotion it needs to but looking at all the factors, it does not impact me as much.
All of the elements that make up Snowflake comes together like the ideal of fate at the center of the story which guides like the mysterious script. Snowflake’s creators make it their own no matter how crazy, emotional, or horrific the various elements might be. Snowflake has it balanced shares of humor, caring, violence, horror, and sweet revenge that never trips over each other. The timing and tempo of this two-hour movie slightly drags but watching it at different times seems to drag in different spots. I guess it depends on the watcher and other variables. Sure, there could be some tightening here and there with the edit. Sure, it could look a bit more polished. Sure, it could be a little less ruthless with some senseless killings. Sure, you may find comparisons to films like Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction or Ryan Prows’s Lowlife or Joe Carnahan’s Smoking Aces, Snowflake. Sure, it can have more of a focus at times but the magic of Snowflake is that these things don’t need to happen to make this a great film and a special film that will connect to audiences of all walks of life. Bravo to Artsploitation for picking up this ‘What the hell…’ title. In all, I was entranced and smitten with this chaotic blend of comic book, fever dream. Now you go watch it and tell me I’m wrong!