By Alexis Guerra
Director: Vladen Nikolic
“Zenith is the time when the sun comes into its peak”; A time that many people believe our society as we know it, will crumble. Thus sets the tone of the film.
The year is 2044. Mankind has now been genetically enhanced to feel nothing but acute happiness, which over time has resulted in a numb civilization, devoid of deeper human emotions and scholarly comprehension. In this new world, pain is one of the only emotions that people can process. Enter Jack, (Peter Scanavino) or Dumb Jack as he is known, a former brain surgeon whose current gig is selling expired medication to pain thrilling seekers. Far more educated than Jack allows himself to be recognized as, he secretly and desperately clings to the existence of the forgotten culture we once knew. In a time where too much knowledge makes you a target, many have shed their common habits and vocabulary to live in a blissfully bliss-less state. Words like temperance, sadness, ennui, and compassion have no meaning in this new world. Nikolic’s desolate and murky cinematography plays eerily well against Jack’s harrowing narrations in a way reminiscent of Darren Afronosky’s ‘Requiem for a Dream,’ with its irregular disheveled camera shots and fast-forward scene transitions, but the idea is all new.
Jack’s journey begins when a stranger approaches him regarding video tapes said to have been created by his father, a former priest named Ed, (a believably kooky Jason Robards III) a man he knew little of even in the world before genetic emotions. He has left them for his son, to help him see and understand the real meaning behind everything that has happened since the former world fell through the cracks. These videos explain a conspiracy theory that dates back hundreds of years; a conspiracy that marks the very reason for society’s depleted status. What starts out as an investigation for both men in two separate time frames eventually becomes an obsession neither can let go of. Slowly, Jack gets sucked into this world of seeking the truth his father has left behind about the Zenith conspiracy until he suddenly finds himself falling even deeper down the rabbit hole than he ever expected. In his search he also encounters Lisa, a seductive and melancholy prostitute who has also been able to preserve her extensive understanding of the world past and longs and desires for the same solace as Jack. It is through a strange series of events in his quest that she brings him closer to the truth. In the end, what he discovers may cost him all he has known, all he has loved and all he has worked for up until now.
A gritty futuristic thriller told from an apocalyptic viewpoint, Zenith, was a scrambled joy ride from start to finish. A few questions do arise, such as the video tapes (are we supposed to believe that despite being deprived of many amenities, a VHS player is a solid household item?) and then there’s the fact that many things still remain a mystery in understanding how many if any can survive in this new sinking society that is supposed to represent the downfall of mankind. However, despite getting lost along the way and a few tangles in the storyline, Zenith does beg the question of “what if?” and manages to portray a wayward society of genetically happy individuals with an extreme amount of turmoil bubbling beneath the surface that is collapsing in on itself.