There are so many things that I have learned to love after being introduced to them by Nick, but if I had to name something specific Hal Hartley's films are one of these treasures. Every one I have seen so far has touched me and inspired me in the way that only best artistic efforts can – a good experience alters you a little every time. I also do not feel silly crediting Nick with the introduction of Hal Hartley in my life, because I doubt I would have ever discovered his films otherwise. At the moment Hartley's movies are not easy to find on DVD and his name when mentioned, does not often ring a bell with anyone. This is a wrong that should be righted soon.
Trust is a fantastic love story in which the concept of love is questioned. While the film is in many ways unromantic (the world is often cruel, people have no taste, people are tacky and violent) it manages to ponder on romance in a way rarely matched in contemporary art. Lost souls can find peace, wisdom and love, the mean lost souls can have their due punishment and then some sympathy, ugly and mundane things can exist in the nearness of fleeting beauty, stupidity and again – wisdom. A suburb can be inhabited by free people. Trust and admiration equal love.
Hal Hartley movies are a little like the music of Felt. For me Hartley was actually more immediate than Felt. It took me 10 years of force-feeding to become sophisticated enough to appreciate Felt, but the Hartley films I got the first time around. Now that I'm immersed in reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, I cannot help but hear a Hartley-esque synth heavy soundtrack playing during each chapter. Maybe one good day Trust will be as widely appreciated as Freedom has rapidly become.
It's enough to tell you that I miss so much the cinema of Hal Hartley that my review of Trust will be informed by this. The last 'new' Hartley film I saw was Book Of Life from 1998, with Trust's Martin Donovan playing Jesus in modern day New York accompanied by Polly Harvey as his Magdalena. Since then, none of his movies have made it to Finland and even fewer to DVD. So I haven't been able to see any new Hartley movies for nearly 15 years (there have been three full length movies since 1998, with a fourth coming this year). Older pictures Simple Men and Amateur have seemingly been in some DVD living hell and unavailable. Can someone liberate these masterpieces? Why is Hartley's cinema so neglected?
Simple Men (1992)
So, Trust was my first experience of Hartley back in the day. The dialogue finds Hartley in some ways at his most aggressive and adolescent. The early starlet of Hartley movies, the late, great Adrienne Shelly plays Maria, a high school dropout who announces her pregnancy to her family and in so doing unintentionally kills her father. Her mum throws her out, her boyfriend drops her and she's finally found homeless by the notoriously dangerous yet educated loner Matthew (Donovan). Trust discusses the change both undergo in forming their unorthodox relationship. Maria grows up and Matthew compromises his hard worn principles so that they can accommodate each other.
Hartley's ultra-smart dialogue provides scene after scene of intensity and offbeat humor, enlightening us on the many intricacies that inform the characters in Trust. The film's visuals warm up as each year passes. In many ways, this is the perfect Hartley film to start with, his later cinema just develops and goes deeper into many of the themes discussed here. So, no real objectivity from me. I still love Trust, it bristles with brilliance even after all these years.