An Existential Neo-Noir loosely adapted from Charles Brockden Brown’s 1799 novel Edgar Huntly, or Memoirs of a Sleepwalker. Here is our review of Daniel Kremer’s nearly 3-hour independent epic Overwhelm The Sky.
We first became aware of filmmaker Daniel Kremer just over 12 months ago when we reviewed an earlier film of his, Ezer Kenegdo on this very website. Ezer Kenegdo was a Woody Allen-esque feature Daniel had co-directed with Deniz Demirer, about the complicated friendship between a Chassidic Jew and a Polish-born Catholic. I remember it being an interesting insight into an area and religion I had very little knowledge of. Now, as a couple of famous British comedians once said, for something completely different. ‘Overwhelm the Sky’ is an ambitious piece of work that is light years away from the mundane, historical, baggage and neurosis of a couple of friends and their religious beliefs and differences.
Overwhelm The Sky tells the story of Edgar “Eddie” Huntly, an east coast radio personality who to marry his fiancée Thea, moves to San Francisco to be closer to her. Thea is the sister of Eddie’s best friend Neil a successful entrepreneur but shortly before Eddie’s arrival, Neil is found murdered in an incident that the police believe to be a simple mugging gone wrong. As the brooding Eddie steps in to guest host another of his old friend’s late-night talk-radio shows, he obsessively makes regular visits to the forest in which Neil’s body was found. One such visit unleashes a chain of unpredictable events that sends Eddie snooping into the life of a sleepwalking drifter with a mysterious past.
As has been the stock in trade for many a filmmaker over the years, Kremer has decided to go down the noir route with this skilfully shot epic. Cinematographer Aaron Hollander uses stark black and white photography that immediately transports you back to the classic noir era of the ’40s. The use of flashing imagery and jump cuts adds to the overall mystery of the story leaving us to wonder if what we are seeing are actual events or just different parts of Eddie’s sub-conscious. As the audience watches events unfold, all we have is Eddie’s observations and thoughts about what is happening at any one time, but the general confusion that Kremer’s direction and the editing by Charles Thackeray purposefully causes us, adds to the uneasiness of the plot. Even as the answers to Neil’s death slowly begin to reveal themselves, we are still left wondering how reliable Eddie actually is; for starters, what is he not telling us and secondly why does he wake up with cuts and bruises all over his body?
All of the regular noir tropes are in action here as we meet the cynical lead, his reliable girl next door partner, the femme fatale, the main bad guy mastermind, the dodgy law enforcement officers, with lots of red herrings and cul de sacs thrown in along the way. The cast is pretty strong with a great sense of chemistry between them all. They are all regular collaborators and you can tell they have all worked together before as there is an ease in which they deliver their lines and interact with each other. Each scene between them is very naturalistic and this can only come about if you have the utmost trust and belief in your partner. The film has a large cast and Kremer deserves credit for managing to control the flow of each one. As is the case with large casts a lot of characters do tend to get lost and left behind but during the film, some of them get their moment in the sun and this allows us into the psyches of individuals who are all driven by many different things.
‘Overwhelm The Sky’ is indeed epic but the 2 hours and 50 minutes dragged a little for me and I did begin to wane as the film began to feel overlong, thankfully we are never too far away from a striking image or moment of inspiration that helps us to push through that inertia barrier.
I am left in genuine awe at Kremer’s achievement with ‘Overwhelm The Sky’ however I am also left with the disappointment of what might have been. I have a feeling that with some more disciplined editing there is a 2-hour gem of a movie in here that if not quite a genuine 5-star classic, then certainly a movie that would make the big studio boys sit up and take notice of this extremely talented, creative and versatile director.