Throughout the 2020 Chattanooga Film Festival I saw a number of good films that were unique in their styling and what they were about. However, I had been missing that one movie that really blew me away. The kind of movie that I would remember for the rest of 2020 and the movie I would humbly brag to friends and fellow critics that I saw it.
Luckily, after nearly a dozen feature films, I found that film. Casey T. Malone’s The Ringing Bell is unlike any movie I have seen in 2020. A stunning, aggressive, sensory overload that mixes crime, sci-fi, romance, and avant-garde all into one wildly original film.
The Ringing Bell looks at Judah (Brandon Cole), a man with an unusual condition – he dreams while he’s still awake. Because of this condition, it has made it difficult for him to process the loss of someone important in his life. When his cousin Brona (Anieya Walker) contacts him with a ridiculous scheme to get at the riches of their eccentric Uncle Airmid who has disappeared, Judah agrees to go along with it in hopes to forget about his crushed heart.
The film is a brisk 70 minutes, yet Malone stuffs it full of haunting imagery, multiple genres, and dream sequences that left my jaw on the floor. What first starts off as an interesting heist film, in which Judah, Brona, Brona’s friend/ex-lover Orva (Joelyn Dormady) steal their Uncle Airmid’s safety deposit box in hopes of riches. But the film quickly goes from heist film to sci-fi madness, which includes insane dreams from Judah, monsters, and a character simply named the Banker. It’s wild and weird stuff, but it hooks you in and never lets go.
The Ringing Bell is a gorgeous film to look at. Judah’s dreams are astonishing. Sometimes fully animated, sometimes changing color pallets, yet always haunting, beautiful, and emotional. They really take us into his mind as to what he is feeling and add more depth to his character. And even when Judah isn’t dreaming, the film offers up great cinematography, editing, and production design. The performances by Cole, Walker, and Dormady are stellar and Malone keeps the movie mysterious and compelling while never being too vague or making it confusing.
As soon as the credits started rolling on The Ringing Bell I wanted to watch it again. This is one of the most unique and original movies I have seen in 2020. The mix of genres, filmmaking styles, and themes all hit you on an emotional and visceral level. This is one hell of a cinematic experience and one that I want to witness again.
The Ringing Bell played in the FEATURES category at the 2020 Chattanooga Film Festival.
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