Coherence ★★★★½

I, Me, Myself. We, Us, Ourselves.

What could possibly be the most startling thing you could ever witness in real life that would make your heart pound, head spin, doubt your mind if its reality or schizophrenic hallucination and make you question your own sanity? A Brontosaurus, a Godzilla, an Alien, a Predator, one look at the mutated, cross species progeny from Eraserhead, a glance at the abominable, heart attack inducing face from Mulholland Drive, witnessing Hannibal Lecter eat a man's brain right out of his head while he is still alive and also feed some to him, reading Jack Torrance's months of work, the enigmatically chilling Polish woman from Inland Empire, Buffalo Bill, Ichi, the killer; which one of the above would it be? Phew. Just recollecting these memories makes me sweat, experiencing them would definitely leave me gasping for breath, panting like I have run a Bolt like dash and would literally make me conscious about every involuntary activity in my body.

So what would be more shocking, stunning or confounding than experiencing any of the above on screen or in real life? How would we feel if we were to see our own physical selves, living the same life as us, with the same set of people around and yet, teeming with readily noticeable differences depending on our past, life affecting choices. What if, the theoretical possibility of co-existing choice based realities, also known as the several unrealized Schrodinger cats, were to manifest themselves, diverging and giving birth to several physically identical you, me and us, but in significantly differential scenarios based on the split second conscious/unconscious decisions, paths chosen, thoughtful judgments, impulsive indiscretions, outcomes hinged on fate, coincidences or sheer luck. The irresistible intrigue posed by the thought, of what we could have been, how our life would have been had we dealt with things in our past differently, and then, the outrageous thrill of experiencing every such possibility, would definitely be the most fascinating, the most compelling idea had it existed. The surreal feeling that would engulf us when we see us, our future and past selves co-existing in the same way we have/have not lived and are/are not going to live, in a coherent space of a time warped world, is in my opinion, an out of world phenomenon, an experience incomparable to any other.

The passage of a tangible black hole through Earth in turn causes the surge of a comet, or is the reverse the causality, I am not so sure. It percolates time and space prodigiously, procreating alternate parallel existences of every single person in its vicinity. The Tunguska Event that is spoken about in the film, caused two physicists from the University of Texas, Albert A. Jackson and Michael P. Ryan to hypothesize that the unnatural event may have been the cause of a black hole passing through earth. But this theory was later dismissed as flawed based on scientific grounds that the chucking back of the black hole into space should have caused another major explosion, just like an entry and exit wound of a gunshot. Hence the premise in Coherence does not concur with scientific logic, but as a person who considers films a religion, science fiction is a greater God than science could ever be. Theoretical science has always been of greater fascination to me than practically possible, plausible scientific realities. It brings to life on screen so many overwhelming possibilities, that are non-existent in the current world, that a cynical mind would decry as not even remotely possible for humans to ever achieve. Cell phones are now commonplace, but 200 years ago, communicating to a person on the other side of the world with the help of a device would have been thought of as a crazy idea, as something that would be eternally unachievable. Who knows what surprises that we as a race could bring about, what more scientific possibilities are yet to be uncovered and realized. 200 years from now time travel could be a possibility. But films like Predestination and Coherence captivate my interest and seek out every cell of my attention because like in real life, we are always fascinated by what we haven't got in our lives. How mesmerized would I be if a film deals with a concept that is impossible to achieve today, but as an optimist would always say: We will surely get there someday.

Coherence brilliantly introduces, enunciates, delves, explores and finally culminates on a terrific high. Brilliantly juxtaposing steady cam and hand held shots, it moves through in real time, giving an authentic experience akin to a real life event, as if we were one of the characters, much like in Cloverfield, minus the aggravation of pov shaky cam and a trite plot. Most of the scenes in Coherence happen within closed doors and are packed with intensity and mind crunching complexity. The ones that are situated outside are irrefutably all the more chilling. Coherence excels in its inventive setting, surprises and stuns with a distinctively designed conundrum of time, space and personal relationships that drive the characters' motivations. It is easy to put down the first half hour as 'mumblecore' but for me, almost everything other than greeting each other had consequence and eventual relevance. The innuendo laced parley, especially between Laurie and Em, set the stage perfectly and there was always a tinge of foreboding that I could sense in those moments. Yes, the film leaves some questions unanswered; yes, it finishes when you absolutely do not want it to, almost like the season finale of The Walking Dead; yes, the actions of certain characters despite being advised against it, might come across as impetuous, unaware and ignorant of the inevitable fact that the result of their actions would come back to bite them in the near future. Still, in the wake of such mind boggling events occurring around you, expecting sane, thoughtful decisions is an unreasonable ask. While the most willful are those willed by love, who realize that they need to act soon, in order to get back their loved one.

What should one do in such a situation? How the characters in Coherence react to this unheard complexity, never before experienced surreality is almost as crucial as its brilliantly conceived idea and its exploration. Should one kill his/her past selves or should he kill his/her present self with the obvious expectation that his legend would live on, in the form of another cat? If yes then how many bad forms should be slayed? If they choose to act and kill their past selves and take its place does it mean that they are dissatisfied with their present? Would you make your self's acquaintance? Would you rumble your mind as to which You deserves the most to live; the present, the past or the future you? Which one would you choose? Is it better if your coherent co-existent self is untouched? All these questions frantically blitz themselves to terrific relevance in marvelous Coherence.

In a way Coherence incorporates a reverse psychology and dins into the necessity of living in the present, not linger and waste ourselves and the time we are presented with, by mulling over a bitter past and also not to while away each second either by craving for a distant unattainable dream or fearing a precarious future. I do not know if it is just me or a general phenomenon, but I happen to imbibe the most poignant philosophies from science fiction films. If practical science has 10 possibilities, theoretical science has 100 of them. But come the big daddy called science fiction there are a 1000 possibilities. These 1000 possibilities when observed, perceived, moulded and presented by 1000 unique, creative minds, result in an endless number of permutations. Coherence deals with the age old time travel trick but it still feels like it is the first time that I had experienced something of this sort. A breath of fresh air, an air of never of before experienced thrill and spookiness, the genius unraveling of events in real time as they happen, the smoothly amassing complexity of the plot that makes the observant viewer's brain gears work overtime to decipher what has happened and what is yet to happen as the events tumble one by one. Maybe it is in the genetic structure of science fiction films. Because they deal with something that is fictional and yet is about science, bringing to life on screen of what could be remotely possible but isn't now, they somehow coerce a reverse effect and thus the blossoming of philosophies relevant to the grounded reality of life on earth.

James Ward Byrkit scores big with Coherence. His potential and ingenuity was evident in the brilliant Rango and now in Coherence he handles a complex subject matter with great levels of authenticity and masterfulness that is sure to create a flutter in the sci-fi circles. There isn't even the slightest misstep in the unfolding of the complexity and even if there was, they remain unnoticeable due to the overwhelming frenzy on display. There might be flaws and there might be questions that remain to be answered and sometimes these unanswered questions might just be the best possible thing considering the inherent complexity of the film. It is something that would warrant subsequent re-watches and what could be better for a film than inspiring its first time viewers to experience it multiple times.

Coherence does not limit itself solely to its core complication but also finds time and is ambitious enough to delve into human emotions like, infidelity, marital transparency, the dicey, precariously imminent rekindling of lost love, possessiveness, hysteria and above all, the ill effects of Ketamine or the sheer delirium caused just by its presence during a paranormal phenomenon. The subplot was brilliantly etched out and how it weaves the emotions of its characters into its screenplay further elevates Coherence's prominence as an exceptional film.

“There could be a million other realities but in each one of them I would have fucked your wife.”

Yes there is a brilliant spark of ironically relevant humor too. One of the reasons why Coherence is such a well rounded feast, a remarkable conglomeration of genres and visualization techniques that would satiate even the most hardcore science fiction fans, who, like me, remain ever so hungry for original and invigorating concepts with every other film.

PS, We talk about teasers of upcoming films and how they cut to black at their most tantalizing, zenith of a moment. But Coherence ends with such an unbearable tease that it almost made me swear at Byrkit and I mean that as a great compliment. I can never term it a coward ending because it felt perfect for me, just that it took time for me to accept it and as they say a good part of being perfect necessitates some imperfection which would be perceived as uniqueness. Coherence's ending is truly unique. The final flurry of events, powered by a great score, was simply scintillating. Terminating with the perfect tease was probably the best and the most befitting way for a film of such innumerable possibilities to close out. Like the unrealized wonders of theoretical science, Coherence too ends with so many open possibilities making us cogitate long after it has cut to black.

And Emily Foxler, my goodness! She was as breath taking as any comet that adorns the starry skies. She was absolutely ravishing and like the comet, was truly worthy of a gaze.

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