“Music is love in search of a word.” ~Sidney Lanier
“To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable.” – Aaron Copeland
David is a misunderstood and lonely child, but has a powerful gift. He can hear things…things that no one else can, in sounds no one else regards as worthy of notice.He loves a girl named Abby, and tries to help her hear what’s in his heart, but she just can’t.He grows to a young man…an underachiever in school, with an unfortunate choice of roommate. Abby, the girl he’s loved from afar since boyhood, always loved someone else other than him.
He’s seeking for an answer to his problems through his gift… in the sounds only he can hear.
Then a random and violent occurrence leads him to the key to his discovery and eventual success…but is this a good thing? Where will this obsession take him and those around him?
Fred Rabbath’s new full-length film, his second after the Christian apologia work, “Catching Hearts, as well as his first remake of one of his previous short films, also entitled “Listen” from 2007, is a remarkable achievement on many levels.
He has a talented eye, and with every film he demonstrates a greater depth and a fearless vision that is uniquely his own.
As expected, this film is a wide divergence from previous works; he never seems to stay with any particular genre for long, but these artistic explorations provide great entertainment for his growing fan base. Even the story itself, at first somewhat fantastical in 2007, has changed to a more intense science-fiction style.
His sense of the visual has seldom faltered since his beginnings filming on the roads and byways of Tallahassee, Florida, and we see that here again in the initial closeups of dripping water and vibrating strings and TV static – to show the narrow and single-minded focus of the main character on what most would consider as noise, but what he sees as something else entirely. There’s a constant sense of movement, even at times where nothing outwardly spectacular is happening. The themes in the story address obsession and the corruption of good people, the wisdom of tampering with nature, and the mysteries of love and attraction.
One of the best things about FC Rabbath and his body of long and short films is the ambiguous nature of his stories – circumstances are rarely tied into a neat and easy bow for delivery to the audience at the end of the movie, and this one is no exception. Instead, there are the ragged edges, the awkward pauses or phrases or laughs that shouldn’t be, the questions left unasked that, while not necessarily the neat and tidy tale a mainstream audience might crave, still leaves the viewer with a sense of satisfaction and even anticipation. The character arcs of major characters provide some of the best reasons for watching.
For those who are familiar with FC Rabbath’s past work, this film is a treasure trove of Easter eggs. So many of the smaller roles have been cast with familiar faces from his other films, and it was a lot of fun to see each of these cameos in turn, as each actor turned in excellent performances one after the other. It’s worth doing some digging back into his YouTube channel, FC Rabbath Creations, to find the work of these other character actors, as it adds so much more enjoyment to the viewing of this and other films.
Some of the most notable among these were Lanny Thomas as Professor Norman and Sergio Soltero as roommate Mark. Lanny plays both the mentor and shadow character at once in one character and turns in a very humanizing portrayal of a man who wants the best for David by any means necessary. Sergio reprised his role as the reluctant roommate from the original short film, but showed a greater range of expression and subtlety in doing so in this most recent version, both in his comic and dramatic moments.
Among the new faces, the brightest was Joshua Mikel as the adult version of David. He successfully carries most of the film on his young and untested shoulders beautifully. He not only shows David’s obsessive focus and search for a solution to winning his love, but manages to remain sympathetic despite his anti-hero tendencies. His was a performance that was hard to look away from.
Note should also be made of Emily Pearse as the love interest Abby, who was luminous onscreen, and held her own in her scenes with Joshua. Her role was not so large as his, but was nevertheless very effective and remarkable, particularly nearer the end of the film.
There may have been some doubt in the minds of fans as to whether or not Mr. Rabbath and his talented cast and crew could pull off his special brand of Southern bootstrap filmmaking in longer feature film format as he did (and still does) with his short film pieces, but there can be no doubt any longer. The feature film “Listen” is a multi-layered and complex story, offering no simple answers, but lots and lots of original indie movie enjoyment.