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Mark Borchardt Stars in Melonie Gartner's New Film

Sep. 5, 2017
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Wisconsin writer-director Melonie Gartner shot her latest film, the 25-minute Where the Great Spirits Live, in lustrous black and white. “I felt that colors would take away the focus from the narrative,” she explains. “I have always been a big fan of black-and-white films. There’s something very beautiful and mysterious about them.”

Mystery fills nearly every frame of Where the Great Spirits Live; it spreads across the shabby interiors and wintry outdoors of Manitowoc where it was filmed. It’s Gartner’s second film starring Milwaukee cineaste Mark Borchardt (he describes her as “completely dedicated to her craft”), a prequel to her previous production, Two Rivers.

This time, Borchardt plays a loner uncomfortable inside his own skin. He drinks alone in a dingy bar and goes by himself to the downtown cinema where he watches the same horror flick over and over. The staff comments on the lonely guy in line—“He doesn’t say much, walks around like a zombie.” Scattered around his crummy room are newspapers whose headlines tell of a lengthening string of murders, “A Gruesome Discovery at the Lakefront.” He stares at the papers without emotion.

Skillful camerawork enhances a bar scene to suggest that Borchardt’s world is shifting slightly, spinning with the uncertainty of his situation. Is he a killer, a hallucinating psychotic or just a lonesome movie buff?

Where the Great Spirits Live screens on Sunday, Sept. 10 as part of the Milwaukee Women’s Film Festival, running Sept. 8-10 at the Underground Collaborative, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave., lower level.


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