TIFF 2012: ‘Tower’ is an achievement in intentional discomfort

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Directed by Kazik Radwanski

Written by Kazik Radwanski

Canada, 2012

Shot almost exclusively in close ups, we get an alarming and vivid sense of Derek (Derek Bogart), the subject of Kazik Radwanski’s character study, Tower. At 34-years old, he’s already balding. His face is unshaven. His stare is vacant and empty. The gash on his nose looks septic. Every flaw, fault, and frailty of his appearance is accentuated and presented in contiguous detail.

Around him, the surroundings are blurred; out of focus. We don’t really know where is his, and in real sense, neither does Derek. He’s stuck in his own lonely universe, the boy in his own bubble. The world outside of his own is alien to him, and he is alien to them.

He’s not really a man-child; he’s just socially stunted. He still has his molars, something that should’ve been taken out when he was 18. He lives with his parents, in their basement, and does construction part-time for his uncle. He’ll strike up a conversation he should’ve had years ago and still dances to music alone in his room. It isn’t facetious to assume that he’s a virgin, in more than one context of the word.

His sphere of seclusion is encroached one day when a squirrel goes through the garbage. Suddenly, he’s presented with something unfamiliar, something new. As he tries to catch the raccoon, Derek is presented with new opportunities in other aspects of his life. If he takes them, he’ll be open to new customs, experiences, and ways of living; but, of course, that entails the popping of his bubble.

He may not be Travis Bickle, even though they share similar idiosyncrasies (like bad hair), but Derek doesn’t really have to be; Mr. Bogart makes this character distinctly his own. Director Kazik Radwanski surrounds his anti-hero with a strong supporting cast and naturalistic ambience, one where people will say real things and act like real people, making Derek’s maladroit nature stand out even more.

Tower is as fascinating as it is sad, and as sad as it is awkward. It’s an achievement in intentional discomfort and succeeds because it never relents. Mr. Bogart is compelling in the leading role and embodies a mannerism that’s hard to watch but impossible to not. His inner turmoil and conflict is brilliantly displayed on his exterior and his delivery is appositely stilted. Never has a person said, “I don’t want you to think I’m some sort of weirdo”, and been less convincing.

– Justin Li

The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 6-16

For more information and tickets, please visit the official website

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