Vanishing Waves, whatever else you might have to say about it, is a stunningly visually beautiful film, at times. The occasionally blindingly white shots of water, beaches, impossible architecture, and hallucinatory, associative sequences make for great dreamscapes, and that is to be applauded in any film. The human psyche may be the toughest thing to portray with any amount of authenticity, and when director Kristina Buozyte is successful in this regard, the movie can be extraordinarily powerful. The weakness here is definitely inconsistency, however.
The basic science-fiction premise is about the linking of two human brains and allowing them to interact directly – one brain connected to the other. One of the subjects is a comatose woman, the idea being that it would be easier to process the signals from a brain in a coma. The other subject is a young scientist, who has apparently done similar connections with computer programs – presumably, something akin to virtual reality.
The initial problems, both in terms of story complication, and in the straining of the audience’s ability to take the character seriously, are in his apparent disregard both for the seemingly ground-breakingly important experiment he’s taking part in, and in ethical questions, when he not only makes contact directly with the comatose woman, but immediately indulges in a romantic, sexual relationship with her, and subsequently fails to let any of the colleagues participating in the experiment know about it. Why he does this can be debated, but probably the simplest explanation is the classic case of characters advertised as intelligent never once displaying that intelligence throughout the movie, with the exception of meaningless techno-babble.
The sexual relationship, which it quickly becomes apparent is something the other, comatose participant is also taking part in, albeit in midst of great pain and anguish, is increasingly graphic and obscene. The camera, it seems, often overstays its welcome frequently, abusing the privilege of intimacy that film, as a medium, provides the audience with. While voyeurism can be a powerful tool in cinema, displaying many of the deepest urges and impulses of a human being in the act of sex, here it is often simply uncomfortable, the viewer being stuck with sequences that last too long, go too deep, with little return.
On the plus side, it in those moments that the unflinching resolve of both the lead actors, Jurga Jutaite and Marius Jampolskis, shines through. Both characters are extremely naked here due to the nature of the story – both physically and psychically. In this nakedness, however, there is ugliness – the movie truly lost me with the introduction of violence, against women in particular, into the lead character. While violence can be an easy way to portray the depths of a person’s psyche and hint at complexity and passion, it isn’t earned here. It is often simply violent, unflinchingly and unapologetically. I was horrified what appears to be attempted murder, thrown in with terrifying casualness at one point in the movie. I felt tricked – here I was, following this person, who’s sensitive, and sure, he has a dark side, but don’t we all – and then he’s strangling a woman all of a sudden. And with no explanation, the movie launches into the rest of the plot, portraying no sort of remorse or even understanding concerning the gravity of the act. Because the movie isn’t meant to be about a sociopath, it’s a sort of romantic drama. An occasionally stunningly beautiful, and at other times equally misguided drama.