FILM INFO: Ingrid has been living alone in the woods, while her husband is away fighting the war. After receiving disheartening letters, Ingrid's sister-in-law comes to stay with her. Tensions rise, when Mary, the naive neighbor woman, loses her husband and moves in. Ingrid's already shattered world becomes even more distorted.
WRITTEN BY: Mark Ryan, Ryan Balas DIRECTED BY: Ryan Balas GENRE: Thriller TIME: 77 minutes.
The first realization I had while watching "Hymns" was that it was a little different. Long before I had a grasp on the story, or the purpose of the characters, one thing became clear. The film was set in a fictional world that although closely mirrors our own, has some very interesting differences. What I first assumed was a WW2 era fiction, soon transformed into a nameless war in an unknown place and time. I then came to realize the war or location didn't matter, "Hymns" wasn't about the war, not really. It also wasn't about the calendar date and certainly had no real historical significance. The location, wardrobe and props were all beautiful filler and the fictional war itself? Just a tool to more easily forward the narrative. "Hymns" at it's center is about people, stress and how one would cope with a horrendous situation. A study of the human mind and yes, maybe even the soul. What I found myself asking, while somewhere into the final act, was how much stress could the human mind actually take before finally caving in? In real life? How does the life experiences of a person alter the delicate balance of the mind? Could true love actually be a danger when life doesn't go as planned? As I watched the character Ingrid's mind slip through-out the film, I couldn't help wonder if without the war scenario, would her character's mind find another reason to break down? Further down the road? Or would she remain mentally strong her entire life? You see reader, for myself, the description of this film was slightly misleading. Although the "family dynamic" of these three woman is explored, as stated in the description, I felt "Hymns" was much stronger showcasing the psychological degeneration of it's characters, and how each individual coped. Ryan Balas does a splendid job directing the cast, as they showcase their characters hopelessness and sadness. The added environmental stresses and inconsistencies, such as the air raid siren and strangely modern looking gas masks, provide oodles of tension for both the characters and the viewer; helping push the story forward without running out of steam. I will also write that normally, this is not my genre of choice when watching a film. With "Hymns" however, I never once got that nagging feeling to hit the stop button. For a film outside my regular comfort zone, to play through to the credits without a break, is something Mark Ryan, Ryan Balas and the entire cast and crew should be quite proud of. From a purely technical standpoint, "Hymns" is a beautiful film to watch. As an indie film reviewer, it's always nice to be spoiled with an amazing looking movie. Although the first half of the film was a little slow moving for my personal tastes, this was a minor thing. "Hymns" will appeal more to those who appreciate the slow burn a good film can produce when done right. If this style is your cup of tea, not much is left to say except you'll love this movie. Other technical elements worth noting are the spot on cinematography, excellent lighting and classy edit that all hold this story together. As I wrote above, from a technical standpoint, this is a great film. Lastly I need to mention the cast themselves. For an indie production, all I can write is: Wow. I was really impressed. It's true that the quality of independent productions, and their cast has been on the rise lately but here, in this film, the characters seem real. I don't know any other way to address the outstanding performances in this title, except to say very well done. To the folks responsible for casting: Excellent job. "Hymns" may not be for everyone, but anyone could easily find something to appreciate within it's 75 minutes. To witness a collapsing mind, especially when done so well, is a strangely entertaining thing. To dig a little deeper, and realize this fiction may not be far from our true nature, opens a completely new perspective on things. I was glad to have been a sad passenger for this ride. Glad to have been given a good story to reflect upon. In the end, "Hymns" was so much more than I was expecting it to be. A true triumph for the indie film community. -Billy