The Disappointment: Or, the Force of Credulity documents a family’s attempt to bridge the gap between the past and the present. The title is a reference to an 18th-century American opera that condemned the practice of colonialists communicating with spirits in order to find treasure, the setting is a farm in Missouri where feminist anarchist Kate Austin—a friend of the more renowned Emma Goldman—once lived with her atheist husband, and the narrator is a lizard-like sculpture pegged as a fraud by archeologists at the turn of the century. Suggesting Katherine Hepburn’s voice run through a computer program, the animal’s narration weirdly but interestingly frames the issues of the film in the form of an excavation. Director Brian Springer, whose family has lived on the Missouri farm at the center of the film for many years, doesn’t so much offer a rationale for his parents’ search for lost diaries and Spanish gold as he contextualizes it: The opera of the film’s title connects to the mother’s possession by a spirit who describes the location of treasure buried in a limestone cave system in the family’s backyard, and the father’s obsessions are linked to his experiences during the Korean War. Perhaps out of respect for his mother and deceased father, Springer doesn’t diagnose them as nuts—at least not explicitly so: Glimpses of a city’s Civil War recreation (featuring a man in a wheelchair accidentally caught in the middle) and a girl’s piss-poor lip-synching performance emphasize the director’s interest in how history is reimagined and, to a certain extent, transformed into falsehood. Though not as elegant in structure as Marker’s great essay films, this heady document is a bizarre illustration of the futility of people desperately looking for things that have been lost to history—if they ever existed to begin with.
- 70 min
- Brian Springer
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