What remains of a contemporary self when it has been disastrously reduced to its corporeal infrastructure—that is, a body without society? Shot on the eve and amid the twilight of Hurricane Sandy, Loretta’ Fahrenholz’s recent film, Ditch Plains, cinematically proliferates the impasse of a broken levee, of a city, Gotham itself, denuded by apocalyptic night, and situating all its social absences as a pretext for bodies to run poetically amok.
First shown is the blacked out city, then its citizen corpses, then illuminated figures who navigate its interstices—hotel rooms, playgrounds, stoops, highway underpasses, and so on—in video game pantomime. “Brought to you by the makers of Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption…” are the first crackles of narration that accompany these images. But how else could a corpse move nowadays? The simulacrum of gameplay techniques finds afterlife off the screen in the still functional limbs of its undead players. Picture, in a way, the city as a program that plays itself when there is no one else around.
Yet the film presents itself neither as straight-forward disaster fiction nor a document of metropolitan collapse. Instead, Ditch Plains offers its viewers a body narrative that expresses a utopia laid bare by precarity’s rupture, and certainly a far cry from all the body horror that has clogged big screens since Hostel and Saw inaugurated post-9/11 commercial terror. For despite all the howls that soundtrack its nocturnal bleaknesses, the cyber-hysteric movements of the film’s primary collaborators, the Ringmasters dance crew, promote a fatal sense of play resilient to even the social preterition of superstorms, and, as seen in the last scene of the film which resurrects a park avenue corpse, infect life anew even in the hour of its ruination.