Review: The Conspiracy Cert: 18 / Director: Christopher MacBride / Screenplay: Christopher MacBride / Starring: Aaron Poole, James Gilbert / Release Date: October 14th
Whether ambitious is the right word, Christopher MacBride's feature debut offers what is an interesting exploration of the distinction between reality and fiction, which lies at the heart of cinema. The Conspiracy’s pseudo-documentary aesthetic is likely to dissuade a good many from giving it even a chance, owing to the over-saturation of the sub-genre within contemporary film. In the hands of MacBride it is used with purpose, not a stylish flourish but an aesthetic that is integral to the film itself, to tell the story of two filmmakers who stumble upon a secret society whilst making a documentary on conspiracy theories.
The Conspiracy is an immersive piece of filmmaking, compelling even in moments. It functions on various layers, leaving one to question whether it is a con or whether it is making us complicit in its enquiry, or rather the filmmaker’s point of enquiry?
These are fitting questions to consider and ask silently as the images roll by on the screen. The Conspiracy is a film that intentionally provokes its audience and pursues an audience willing to hypothesise, willing to ask the question “What if?” It is a film that provokes the inquisitive nature of its audience, directing us to question the authenticity of information, and even re-consider what we think we know about our own history.
MacBride imbues the film with a certain emphasis on subjectivity: the subjectivity of the pseudo-documentarians, the subjectivity of how individuals view information, observe patterns, and extends beyond subjectivity to the influence of human bias and our propensity to distort fact.
There is a daunting moment in The Conspiracy where the very fabric of our certainty and faith in cold hard facts is shattered. It is a horrific realisation. Sometimes horror is not supernatural, it’s not home invaders or possessed Good Guy Dolls, but rather it is the horror of realising a truth that we adopt ignorance as a defence mechanism. The Conspiracy is a wakeup call, asserting that cinema transcends simple entertainment.
The exploration of the world of conspiracy, looking in the shadows eventually intersects with a dramatised conclusion, at which point The Conspiracy becomes Eyes Wide Shut meets the pseudo-documentary. The set-up and the conflict are arguably more compelling than the film's conclusion, a sign of MacBride's youthful inexperience perhaps in his struggle to satisfactorily conclude his film.
Look again, and perhaps this is a further example of MacBride’s skill, as he brings out the falsehood of the recording of facts within documentary through a collision with a fevered dramatisation.
The Conspiracy is an accomplished feature debut, and it is clear to see MacBride’s interest in documentary and its influence on his debut feature. Successfully intertwining documentary and drama here, it will be a point of interest to see how he fuses these two influences together as he moves forward and compromises them owing to their perceived polarising functions.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10