You don’t need to be told that the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, has an evocative name. And indeed, it’s been used as a title before, albeit for an entirely inconsequential film. This disquieting movie, called a “speculative documentary” by its director, Hannah Jayanti, has more weight.
Jayanti’s camera takes in the plain, sun-drenched streets, mountains in the background; the place looks like a ghost town. Prowling through a labyrinth of broken, castaway electronics and other such junk, Jayanti places a virtual-reality filter over the imagery that adds an eerier quality to already unusual sights. Eventually she shows the viewer a sort of retro-futuristic structure called Spaceport America.
Here’s where the “speculative” part comes in. While the spaceport site is a real locale, this movie situates it in a time when it’s been acknowledged that Earth is dying, and people are leaving it. Now the spaceport is moving the population out — the population that can afford to depart.
For those who can’t, well, Jayanti threads the real-life stories of this town’s inhabitants through the impressionistic narrative. Yvonne, an older woman, tells stories of a childhood and early adulthood full of abuse. A male resident named George discusses his collection of rocks, many of which look like marbles. And Katie, a younger woman, discusses an estrangement from her family. They all allude to how they came to Truth or Consequences, and why they are staying.
These tales of real life are sometime terribly sad. And the tales are given further resonance by the strangeness of the place, and by a reflective electric-guitar score by Bill Frisell. The realization that Jayanti is using these things to buttress a fiction — albeit a fiction that could perhaps become true in the blink of an eye — is disquieting in a way the filmmaker might not have intended.
Truth or Consequences
Not Rated. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes. Watch through virtual cinemas.
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