Jacques Aldridge's feature-length film "Absence of God Speaking" is a long one. Although ninety minutes may seem like a pretty average runtime for a film, it all comes down to content and pacing - and for me, this one felt at least double the length. Now, reader, I'm not suggesting that the lag comes from this film being a bad movie, and in fact? Aldridge's flick has many great moments and a lot going for it - but it took me two sittings to complete this movie, and I'll get into the "why" later, but the short and sweet of this write-up? "Absence of God Speaking" will not be for everyone. Especially those used to the faster pacing of today's filmmaking.
The film follows along with Father Bogarde as he traverses the jungles of Nigeria, attempting to escape an attacking militia. It's important to note that this film is based on a true story, but the movie's presentation hinges on flashbacks and what I can only assume are also hallucinations. In many ways, this film resembles the old television show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood because essentially, the film is a collection of meetings with various people through the jungle. Bogarde travels a little and meets up with someone. Travels a little more, meets someone else - rinse and repeat. As the movie starts, we're led to believe Bogarde is some kind of saint; he even wants to become an apostle - but by the end, we realize that not everything is as it seems. "Absence of God Speaking" lives up to its title in the end and, from what I gathered, raises some questions involving cowardice. There's a lot to unpack in this film, and honestly? I'm not totally sure I grasped everything. This is definitely a movie people are probably meant to ponder and discuss.
Now, pretty much any low-budget indie film has some technical production issues. That's to be expected and sometimes even enhances the story being told. However, in this case, some of those production aspects and even some choices by the filmmakers work against the movie. Things such as the heavy use of filters and the harsh green color grade, at times, make the film a little tricky to get into. Add to that the very uneven audio, which had me frantically playing with my volume clicker all through the movie. When the bullets start flying - they're thunderous, and at the start, they almost blew out my speakers. There are also a lot of long, long, shots of essentially nothing. Shots of Bogarde just sitting somewhere for extended periods until finally, some narration takes place. A much more aggressive edit could have shaved a good twenty minutes from this film with no hit to the story - and the pacing may have improved drastically.
So, again, back to what I wrote earlier. This film won't be for everyone, and yet I can't deny that a certain grim charm exists throughout this movie. It's a sad venture once you begin to realize the true nature of Aldridge's film. If you're a fan or can appreciate a slower-paced drama, you'll probably rate this title a little higher but no matter how you look at it, "Absence of God Speaking" is worth a look. It may not be perfect but then again ... what ever is? Two and a half stars.