Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the Whistler Film Festival. For more information visit whistlerfilmfestival.com and follow WFF on Twitter at @whisfilmfest.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a motion picture like Nestor? The entire film is produced by Daniel Robinson, a remarkable achievement considering the look, feel and sound of this film. He shot the film, mixed the sound, and acted in it, in addition to taking on writing and directing duties. An unnamed man wakes up in the middle of a frozen lake, his only piece of clothing is a bright yellow pair of shorts. He walks around a remote lakeside village, completely alone. Is he the last man on earth? What happened here? How did he get here?
Questions are raised immediately and few are answered. Robinson keeps the audience intrigued by offering little in the way of exposition, replacing that with ideas, themes and a striking solo performance. We witness the man go through survival, find shelter, become comfortable with his surroundings and also make a film. Within the film, Robinson sets up cameras shooting his surroundings, animals, even himself walking down the frozen lake. He uses audio equipment to mix his sound. Is Robinson commenting on the filmmaking process? Does he feel alone, isolated and trapped? There’s still life around him. A particularly moving scene involves an otter swimming in the lake. Is Robinson teaching us to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us daily? So many questions!
It’s unclear how much time passes in the film. There are subtle hints like the passing seasons. The film starts out in the middle of Winter, eventually leading to spring and summer. Once again, the audience receives a lot of meat to chew on: what do the seasons represent? Does the progression of each season represent how it feels to make a film? Robinson’s surroundings look extremely remote. He creates a believable environment where it feels like he’s the last man on earth.
Art is subjective and Daniel Robinson presents a beautiful work of art with Nestor. Art is meant to be discussed, debated and enjoyed. One could argue there are sci-fi elements at work in this film, others may only see the technical side to making this film. There’s so much going on in this film. Small moments carry much weight, like an extremely funny Terminator 2 reference, or a solo game of checkers.
It wasn’t until later in the fest that I learned that Robinson made this film all on his own. This was a surprising discovery because the film looks and sounds great. There are long shots in the film that feel like there is a film crew behind the lens. There is an elephant in the room at all film festivals — there are often technical flaws with many of the films: poor sound, uneven color timing, mis-timed ADR, etc. None of these elements are present in Nestor. It’s evident that much love was poured into this passion project.
Robinson does a great job of initiating the discussion and letting the audience choose the meaning of the film. Some of the best films leave room for interpretation. There’s always a filmmaker’s intent, but that is gone once an audience sees the film. We all bring our individual background and history that helps mould what we interpret on-screen. Nestor is among the most daring, original films I’ve seen on the festival circuit this year. If you get the chance to see it, give it a chance and please share your thoughts. Isn’t that why we’re here? Art films like Nestor need to be championed by the audience.
Nestor is among the most daring, original films I've seen on the festival circuit this year.