Writing and directing a film about entering another person’s mind is one of the more creatively demanding tasks you can set up for yourself. One does not simply convey the infinite machinations and uncertain boundaries of consciousness on film, and in order to create a viable proxy you need a clear vision and an assured, developed style. Writer/director Kristina Buozyte has this, and she succeeds masterfully in depicting a forsaken psycho-sexual wasteland within the feverish mind of a comatose patient.
Unfortunately, the film’s foundation is not nearly as strong as its facade. Granted, that facade is all stunning cinematography and a throbbing, unsettling soundtrack–but the plot remains thin and underdeveloped, and the central character entirely uncompelling and pretty much a dick. The gentleman in question is Lukas (Marius Jampolskis), a scientist attempting to explore and document the thoughts of another. His opportunity arises when a comatose patient arrives in the hospital and is outfitted with some very cool looking EEG headgear. After a few brief tune-ups, Lukas arrives in a mindscape, where he almost immediately comes across Aurora (Jurga Jutaite) and begins with the illusory love-making. The film continues with Lukas revisiting the mind-world again and again and reporting none of it back to his team, fearing their disapproval and subsequent retirement of the project. To be clear, everything Lukas does in Vanishing Waves is pointless and based on his own selfish and carnal desires.
That’s not inherently a problem, but the film’s construction makes it one. It seems likely that this could have been a much more compelling film if Lukas had entered the abyss and stayed there. The real story of Vanishing Waves is that of the encroached mind and the interstitial vignettes in the real world only detract from that tale unfolding. Aurora is a fascinating character and Jurga Jutaite does a great job with her, but she is billed like a projection in the mind of the purported protagonist, whereas her’s is the journey worth following.
Buozyte rewards viewers with a much more interesting and emotionally charged turn in the last third. This rescues the film somewhat, and, throughout, Vanishing Waves is peppered with moments of transcendent beauty. Considered as a collection of unique filmic poems, Waves even has a fairly high success rate. Considered as a visual and aural exploration of obsession, psychosis, and sexuality, it’s incredible. But as the complete and effective narrative feature it attempts to be, it disappoints.