When Austin’s only science fiction film festival hosts a screening outside of the festival’s run, you probably want to attend it. The caliber of films at last year’s inaugural event was surprisingly strong, so expectations were high going into first-time director Khalil Sullins‘ film, “Listening.” about some geniuses who develop a mind-reading technology and the moral dilemmas and implications inherent with that type of technology.
It’s an interesting premise, one that comes across as surprisingly believable even though current technology and experimentation in this field are rudimentary at best. If you want to read a bit about the study of telepathy, check this out: technology review
Credit should be given to Khalil Sullins for writing the story in a way that seems realistic and possible. His take on the science has enough justification to carry viewers along, and even maintains a good pace. Often when dealing with technological or scientific content, movies get bogged down in the explanation by offering too much of why the technology is plausible, generally creating terrible lags in the story. Fortunately, “Listening” never falls prey to this kind of issue. Things progress at a reasonable pace and keep the audience engaged. The information provided and the implications of the technology provide some food for thought and could generate great post-film discussions, so you may want to watch this with a friend.
I struggled with aspects of the story from a realism standpoint that had nothing to do with the main plot. Things that bugged me were dumb thoughts like both David (Thomas Stroppel) and Ryan (Artie Ahr) didn’t strike me as smart enough or committed enough to have discovered the breakthroughs they had to develop their project. I mean, David was married with a young daughter and seemingly had a family life. Ryan was supposedly part womanizer and part genius. He was only believable as a womanizer; he barely seemed credible as a science student, let alone someone who could comprehend the complexities of the project. To develop something so groundbreaking, it seemed one of those guys would have had to have been far more obsessed with the project to the point of being unable to have much of a life outside of it. I would have bought into it more if one of them had been more of a nerd.
The director’s choice to use color and shooting style to symbolically represent different themes seemed a good idea. However, the differences were sometimes so extreme that they not only adversely affected the film’s cohesion, but at times created a jarring effect that pulled me out of the story to ponder why the style changed so much. Admittedly, some of the effects worked extremely well, but there were just so many of them. I think had these devices been used more subtly or sparingly, it could have created the same effect, with less noticeable shifts.
“Listening” provides an interesting theory of the potential of scientific breakthroughs in telepathy, and entertains at the same time. If that sounds interesting to you, it’s worth checking out. The film will be out September 11. Also, if you’ll be in the Austin area December 3-5, check out Other Worlds Austin film festival. Click here for information on submitting a screenplay or film, or purchasing a badge (currently on sale for $42.00 – guaranteed admission to 10 films if you want to see something in every slot).