It is never revealed why the power went out. Into the Forest is a post-apocalyptic film unlike many: without the sense that the characters are going to die or that the world is about to end. There is no reason to suspect terrorism. There is no reason to suspect government intervention, corruption, or takeover.
More dramatic than suspenseful, the film focuses on two sisters, Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) and Nell (Ellen Page), who learn to adapt to life without electricity. Into the Forest delves into their interactions with each other and the support they offer to one another in a time of crisis. The relationship between the sisters is akin to that of Justine and Claire in Melancholia; Nell is the more practical, cerebral of the two whereas Eva is more driven by her emotions and fear. For a brief time, Eva distances herself from Nell within their own house, but over time the two become close again as Eva realizes there is no benefit to be drawn from her irritable isolation.
The film is presented as a collection of scenes, ten days, two months, six months, … since the electricity went out. The sisters first consume all the food that they have at home, and then they gather berries and vegetables. As resources begin to run out at their house, they learn how to use the forest surrounding their home in order to ensure their survival.
To be certain, there are particularly violent and alarming scenes in Into the Forest. Their isolation within the forest is not depicted as Edenic in the slightest. A number of tense scenes ratchet up the intensity as film progresses, maintaining the film’s measured pace.
At first, Nell argues with Eva that they should save gas for emergencies and should not use it to restart the generator in their home briefly. However, as time progresses and the sisters don’t utilize the gas to drive to the nearest town, Nell realizes that the gas is best used to restart the generator and increase their morale. When their vehicle is stolen, this confirms Nell’s decision. In their brief time with power, the sisters watch home videos that their parents filmed. And when Eva refuses to rise out of bed, Nell uses the gas so she can power up a CD player to encourage Eva to get up.
Unlike Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, Patricia Rozema’s Into the Forest is a little thin on themes and noticeably archetypal in characterization. Nonetheless, Into the Forest strongly suggests the necessity of art in human nature as well as man’s ability to utilize the resources that nature provides. I only wish these themes could’ve been conveyed in a more convincing manner.
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