LECTION ** USA 2020 Dir: David Axe. 98 mins
This is the fourth feature film for writer-director David Axe, following THE THETA GIRL, AZRAEL and last year’s distinctive, witty SHED. Axe, a former war correspondent, also moonlights as a Washington-based journalist and his graphic novel work includes the well-regarded war memoir “War Fix” (2006). Arriving in certain territories to coincide with the 2020 election year in the country that hated Hillary Clinton so much they voted for Donald Trump, this ambitious South Carolina-shot feature opens with an image of a bloodied hand reaching out to a ballot box marked “Vot”. This prologue sets the scene for a world in the wake of an unspecified apocalypse, where language and communication have broken down, spelling has dropped well below OFSTED expectations and the only real food left is fresh “bred” and in the hands of the elite. Music and dance still exist though, thankfully, no one owns an Adele album. As unrest grows amongst what remains of so-called civilisation, young Dot (Sanethia Dresch) is the only candidate running against current Mayor Mike Amason.
Largely unravelling without dialogue or exposition, LECTION is structured after the three stages of the American electoral process : the primary, the campaign (which becomes a mob) and election night itself (a cage match). It’s a fascinating concept for a low budget genre film and certainly bold in format and execution, with moments of power in its timely portrait of a anachronistic political system inciting violence amongst a ruined society enduring the last vestiges of capitalism, order and democracy. It’s also vastly over-stretched, so that the central themes are repetitively hammered home to the point of almost total disengagement. In a disciplined, punchy format akin to an old TWILIGHT ZONE episode, it could have been terrific – and the risks it takes confirm Axe as a filmmaker to follow.
Review by Steven West