Unfortunately, I was not one that loved the film. I wasn’t surprised to find out that the camera was visibly in the car on the other side of the subjects because I could sense the characters feeling the presence of a camera opposite them. Some particularly extroverted characters chatted with one another without altering their behavior. However, some such as a young boy in the very first ride were clearly aware and perhaps nervous about the presence of the camera. I didn’t feel placed in the reality of this situation, so I was unable to disappear into it. To be clear, it definitely succeeds to a large degree at conveying the notion of simply being on a cable car watching typical travelers pass through, however getting off to a bad start with the camera-aware boy threw me for the rest of the experience.
This film had its world premiere in Locarno, where it won the Golden Leopard for Special Jury Prize in Filmmakers of the Present, Special Mention for Best First Feature Film, and Independent International Film Critics’ Award for Best First Feature. It went on to tremendous acclaim from top film critics as well, being a New York Times Critics’ Pick, and getting positive mentions from Film Comment, the New Yorker, Village Voice and Indiewire. In some moments, I could sense the brilliance that they see in the film. One example is viewing each rider’s unique reaction to a loud noise about halfway through the ride. Some ride along without noticing the mundane occurrence, while others jump in fear. It’s hard to say why this is slightly remarkable to behold, but each person’s unique response reveals his or her humanity. Spray and Velez combined this structure with a set of characters that create a broad snapshot of society. They include introverts and extroverts, with some rides silent and others among chatty friends, old and young, including teenagers constantly taking selfies, and human and animal with one ride being a handful of goats. We see these and other types of beings wander in and out of this spiritual temple, some leaving it profoundly impacted, others bored and disinterested. Perhaps the experience of the film is the same; a good sampling seem to have left it with a spiritual awakening. I was more like the teenagers, ready to move on to something else.