Mixing pseudo-documentary narration with visual gimmickry, alternative science, and loopy fantasy, WAX emerges as an audacious but ultimately detached and frustrating melange that substitutes ideas and images for character or narrative drive.
Jacob Maker (David Blair), inheritor of a hive of Mesopotamian bees once owned by his spiritualist cinematographer grandfather, programs weapons-targeting devices for the military at Alamogordo, New Mexico. Beginning to question his job as he recognizes that his devices and their targets have
their own souls, he finds himself experiencing blackouts and eventually becomes inhabited by the hive consciousness of his grandfather's bees, who embody the souls of the dead crying out for vengeance. Ultimately the bees implant a television in Jacob's head and transport him back and forth
through time and space: to the moon; to the "planet of the future dead"; to Garden of Eden, Kansas, a town of concrete people and trees where Jacob was born on the day the first atomic bomb was tested; to the birthplaces of the atomic age (Trinity, White Sands); to the hidden "Garden of Eden Cave"
(an anagram, we discover, for "Vengeance for the Dead") beneath the desert containing another planet within the earth. Eventually Jacob merges with his own ancestors and with the first atomic bomb, then emerges in 1991 Iraq (the former Mesopotamia) as the consciousness of a weapon programmed to
destroy an enemy tank, finally reincarnating in an alternate history as his own sisters, twin genetic researchers Allelle and Zillah (Florence Ormezzano).
Begun as a three-and-a-half minute experiment in video graphics and expanding over the next six years with the help of numerous grants and artists' residencies, WAX seems built by accretion rather than by following a linear storyline. (In a tongue-in-cheek homage, a photo of William Burroughs is
cast as James Maker, progenitor of the character played by filmmaker Blair.) Fashioned of stock footage, shot-on-video segments, and computer animation--what Blair refers to as "hypermedia"--WAX was edited on computer with Blair's wife, Florence Ormezzano, providing trippy effects and manipulation
to nearly every shot. The choice to begin the film in documentary fashion gives it a solid familiar grounding before the narrative gradually drifts further and further from reality, like a technophile's hallucination, with ideas folding in on each other in Mobius links and the visuals becoming
more and more distorted. Hugely self-referential, concepts and images are introduced early on and dropped, only to reappear in entirely unexpected manner later: the X-mark of Cain, for example, first encountered in the Kansan Garden of Eden, comes to represent weapons sights, crossed bones, and
the chromosomal inhabitants of an imagined world among its many permutations.
For all his invention though, Blair has willfully excluded any actual humanity from the film, rendering WAX a wholly intellectual and resolutely dispassionate exercise. Jacob Maker, the narrator and protagonist, is almost always in his beekeeper's outfit, when he's shown at all--an intriguing
image but one that is ultimately distancing.
Fittingly for a movie so obsessed with formal invention, WAX won recognition in 1993 as the first film to be transmitted over the Internet. (Violence, adult situations)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1991
- Rating: NR
- Review: Mixing pseudo-documentary narration with visual gimmickry, alternative science, and loopy fantasy, WAX emerges as an audacious but ultimately detached and frustrating melange that substitutes ideas and images for character or narrative drive. Jacob Maker… (more)