Dave Made a Maze

 

Sam SaysI really wanted to love this shoestring film just because it had the audacity to be immensely ambitious with hardly any budget. But any potential for a great cult classic in “Dave Made a Maze” sinks under its own flabby plot.

G.K. Chesterton wrote that, “a good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”

“Dave Made a Maze” expresses both truths.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some scenes within this rambling comedy-horror that are worth wading through the rest of its cardboard jungle. In these few scenes, the hero of the maze, Dave, somehow expresses something of the inexpressible frustrations and joys of being an artist, and attempts to tackle the tangled truths of creativity. What is the connection between an artist and his art? How much control does a creator exercise over what he’s created?

G.K. Chesterton wrote that, “a good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”

“Dave Made a Maze” expresses both truths.

These are great questions for any film to explore, but the answers partially depend on what the artist already believes. And these creators have not only lost control of what they’re creating, but they believe that is a good thing. Because of that, there’s nothing to stop them from freely indulging in a script that wanders like a swarm of gnats in the summer.

And so the second part of Chesterton’s maxim also holds true. This film tells us far more about its filmmakers than its story. And these filmmakers have clearly skated through their careers by using art-school claptrap jargon and cheap classical allusions as short-cuts to really doing the hard work of creativity.

Still, the movie is recommended for anyone who wants to see characters bleed red string…

3 Scale

Vs.

Matt Says

No. Nope. This isn’t working.

Before it was popular to be ponderously meta, literary self-reflexivity and intellectual whimsy were a niche activity, classified into a hodge-podge category called “Learned Wit”. It was a narrow but quirkily curved shelf in the great library of western lit, jammed somewhere between the stacks of satire, parody, and comedy. Why do I mention this? Because I think the term reveals how one kind of meta-art works best. To wit, wit; mental play; a lightweight game; a house of cards, all of which are jacks and jokers. But if Dave Made a Maze is anything to go by, wit is not a cardboard house.

So why doesn’t Dave Made a Maze work? It’s not witty. There’s whimsy, but it’s flimsy. It’s not even funny to me in a broad way.  Occasional clever sparks are wasted, suffocated by a parched script with characters that are as dry as the cardboard surrounding them. In one of the scenes, the characters transform into paper bag puppets. That’s the best acting in the whole crumpled pile. The movie also makes no sense. And it makes no sense in a way that’s frustrating… it’s not confusing in any way that invites mysterious meditation.

Let’s focus on what almost works. The whole maze plot seems to me to be an extended metaphor for the creative process: creator lost in the creation, dancer becoming the dance, etc. Sort of an art-school Tron. This has possibilities and the lo-fi vibe has the potential to keep it real.

Now an avalanche of questions: Why is the creation a terrifying place if Dave is so thoroughly bland? Why are people dying in bizarre ways? Does Dave’s subconscious want to kill? If it’s a comedy then why do none of the jokes land? What the heck is that pretentious chrysalis thing supposed to be? I assume there was some kind of plan that the Minotaur would symbolizes the artist-hero’s monstrous shadow… or it’s meant to represent the dark side of the creative process… or something along those lines. But if that’s the case, then why is the payoff so weak? The minotaur seems more plot machinery than mysterious man-eating monster.

Occasional clever sparks are wasted, suffocated by a parched script with characters that are as dry as the cardboard surrounding them. In one of the more inspired moments, the characters transform into paper bag puppets. That’s the best acting in the whole crumpled pile.

The movie has to be some kind of fable since basically no character acts or reacts like a normal human being, but what did anyone learn? Have any of the characters learned anything at the end? When lost in life, should one cut to the center of one’s being to destroy the chrysalis after dragging one’s friends through a fun childlike metahell? Has Dave given up building forever? Is he going to build the labyrinth again next week?  I mean, I’m not looking for profound character development. I’m just looking for some kind of something – anything – to elevate this above an exercise in set design and occasional off-target meta.  It’s possible I could have just missed it; I may have just been trapped in one of the anterooms of the labyrinth. But it may not be too late for you: do not enter.

1.5 Scale