From afar, the Bennington Monument (our obelisk) appears to loom out of the wilderness like a lost relic. Upon approach, by changing perspective, it is in fact rising from the town center. The obelisk is a primeval symbol. It is as mystical as omnipresent in our world. In Paris, the ancient Egyptian obelisk was placed in the middle of the city, detached from its home while the sibling remains in Luxor. It was Napoleon who had the giant stone brought across the Mediterranean Sea, symbolizing the scientific expansion of the West. It was also Napoleon who used the art of painting to propagate false history. While the French citizens applauded images showing him pardoning Egyptian insurgents, in reality, Napoleon slaughtered most of them.
In 2020, we all experienced a rupture in life as we knew it. Inflamed by the rising age of misinformation and cultural upheaval, the pandemic and its accompanying lockdown found Americans pitted against one another on charges of oppressor and victim. On January 6th, 2021, the obelisk in Washington looked down on what many called an insurrection, and what others felt was a patriotic march for a stolen election.
Extrapolation from facts and the gradual twisting of truths is a method of control. The manipulation of images and ideas is at the heart of film as a medium. Like our protagonists navigating their world with blinders on, the camera also sees only what it wants to. Using clichés of post-apocalyptic movies, we create not a “play on words” but a “play on images.” The America we observe in The Obelisk is selected from the rusting and decaying parts of the rural North. These are not constructed sets, but a part of us already.
Nothing we show in The Obelisk is pure fiction. Take Pizzagate, for example—the conspiracy theory appears absurd to the mainstream, but from the depths of the internet, it successfully drew a follower to a deadly serious standoff with authorities. The NXIVM Cult scandal provided the world with juicy headlines to get lost within our worst fears, and yet the promise of a utopian society has always given temptation. What about the armed militias? Could they provide security in a rotting society? Or, are they an evangelical version of the Taliban?
While the world around us is reaching a fever pitch of who is telling the truth and who is lying, it’s our responsibility as artists to dive in. Not always to take sides, but to pay attention and reflect on what we observe around us. It’s our job to reveal our characters in their contradictions and moral crusades, as well as their compassion. In this story, we explore the downward spiral of two people we could easily come across in our daily lives. They go off the grid, narrowing their chance of coming across anything besides what they decide to see, feeding their paranoia and ultimately becoming dangerous. Driven by the right circumstances and a hefty dose of fear, we will do what is necessary to survive. This innate spirit might also guide us to make sacrifices for the collective. We explore this in Jennifer’s story, where taking action for the greater good shifts her own life and comfort into upheaval.
The Obelisk is a rumination on belonging- when there is a cataclysmic transformation, or when we shift lenses, what remains? We are excited about telling this story in this time. We live in a world where misinformation, manipulation, and disregard for objectivity are entirely normal. We are living in a Venn diagram of apocalyptic what-ifs and conspiracy theories. A film combining these elements is very much at home here.