Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 29 March 2007
Source ThinkFilm 35mm print
Nobody finds out if you live.
Zoo’s visual and aural components are two discretely separate films. It is classified as a documentary, but virtually all of its footage is re-enacted with distanced lucidity. People are framed in medium compositions, and are often found performing some mundane daily activity: watching television, sipping a drink, walking. The setting is regularly scenic, comprised of rural Washington state locales found at dusk or twilight, the sun or stars framed above in some picturesque composition. It is a relaxing film to watch, austere and comforting in such a way that Zoo’s aural components will become unexpectedly, uncommonly troubling.
The entire film is scored in voiceovers of real people, descriptions from a variety of perspectives of an incident near Seattle in 2005 in which a man, an engineer at Boeing, died of internal bleeding. Those who knew him closely describe his stoicism; EMTs involved in his failed repercussion describe his and his colleagues’ perversion. These voices pronounce conflicting stances on morality, yet they remain oddly coherent, engendering an atmosphere of at once affronting and yet plaintive austerity.
Because the film is so impartial toward the morality in question, the viewer, it would seem, is encouraged to supplant the lack of judgment. And it would be easy to do, even if inappropriate: neither a condemnation nor reproach of zoophilia, the film remains tempered, less concerned with morality than it is humanity; it lends humanity to those uncharacterized by it, men whose necessity for companionship was so uncommon and intense it would result in either their exile or death.
Zoo is divided in half by the monologue of one of the film’s actors, and it is decidedly discrepant; the actor centered on a stool against a white background, his story about the death of a young boy seemingly out of place. His description emphasizes the boy’s face, frozen white at the moment of his last breath. The actor is only playing a bit part, that of a policeman seen in the periphery of only a few scenes, and his story is contextually removed from the film. Yet it exemplifies the film’s interest in humanity – that death is an end, a loss of humanity for which circumstance is rendered irrelevant.