Fugacis: A Psychedelic Odyssey, is an Edmonton-set film of a soul-searching tale full of sex, violence, and lots of drugs.
With his first feature-length film, local filmmaker Zach Proulx has created a hallucinatory descent into madness that is ultimately a celebration of life. Casting his friends in the main roles and filming on location in Edmonton, Proulx creates a deeply personal work that displays the inner workings of his mind in an entertaining and provocative manner.
At its core, Fugacis is about two young men, Darrien (David Madawo) and Rimon (Tom Tunski) searching for meaning in their lives. This search leads to them looking for the fictional drug Opus, which is said to grant its users the answers to the meaning of life. Although we do not get insight into the two characters’ backstories, their behaviours and personalities show that they have turmoil inside them that is causing pain and confusion. They both seem to drift in and out of situations, not ever totally in control, but instead going where things lead them. For example, at one point early on, Rimon stumbles across a girl named Daemean (Cassie Hyman) lying down in a dug-out grave in a graveyard, and this leads to the two beginning a complicated relationship.
Through its sound design and visuals, Fugacis attempts to depict what it’s like to be on hallucinatory drugs. The image often distorts, warping characters or objects in grotesque ways. Sometimes the camera moves in a frenetic fashion, not focusing on any one thing but instead going from one to another, as if it had a mind of its own, independent from the rest of the film. The story isn’t told in chronological fashion, but instead follows a stream-of-consciousness structure that leaves viewers confused as to what happens when.
Given that it’s an independent film, Fugacis does not have the polish of a big-budget picture. However, this also gives the film an endearing charm. The passion of the group of friends who made the film comes through in the total commitment each person has brought to this project. No matter how wild things get in the story, whether it’s scenes involving violence, sexuality, or drug use, the cast and crew do not falter. They make the film’s sensory and hallucinatory vision come to life in a spectacularly scrappy and heartfelt fashion.
To my surprise, Fugacis is not just a shocking film for shock’s sake. While it certainly aims to upset the viewer’s senses through disorienting and abstract visuals, the film equally has plenty of moments of serene contemplation. Moments of sensory overload are interspersed by slow moments where little seemingly happens. These moments are perhaps the film’s most powerful, as they capture that feeling of emptiness people can have when they perceive an absence of meaning in their lives. It’s what Rimon and Darrien are dealing with, and so the film perfectly puts the viewers into their position.
Although Fugacis is not a film I can recommend to everyone (especially those who are easily stressed out by drugs), it is one that I can endorse for its original vision and desire to subvert cinematic conventions. This is a work full of passion, and I’m confident that Zach Proulx and his cast and crew will only keep giving us imaginative and challenging films that present Edmonton in an excitingly fresh way.
Fugacis will be playing at the Metro Cinema on January 30 at 7pm.