Film Review: Major Arcana

By Lexi Rafael

It’s somewhat awkward at first for the busy, modern mind to slow down and catch onto the rhythm of Major Arcana. This is a visual poem, unconcerned with a strict adherence to standard film formula. There’s no high drama, no edge-of-your-seat stakes. Instead, we’re faced with a rather quiet story. A man who’s trying to move on from past mistakes returns to his hometown and attempts to build a better future for himself, literally, by constructing a cabin in the woods with his bare hands.

For the first eight minutes of Major Arcana, the story unfolds in silence: An old pick-up truck pulls up to a run-down house in the woods. A man, who we will soon learn is our protagonist, Dink, gets out of the car with a large knapsack in tow and enters the house. A fly buzzes about the dirty kitchen. In the bedroom, a sea of crumpled clothes covers the floor. Dink opens a drawer to reveal a pack of naked lady playing cards. Back in the kitchen, he checks the fridge: beer, mayonnaise, and more beer. He takes out a six pack, cracks open every single beer and proceeds to pour all six down the drain at once. It seems he can’t help but pour himself a quick handful, but moments after slurping it up, he spits it all out.

Over the course of the film, we watch as Dink moves between two very different worlds. Alone in nature, working on his cabin, he is clearly in his element. Here life is simple, straightforward. We get to share in Dink’s pleasure in the perfect squeeze of cheese-whiz, the refreshing rinse in a stream, the delight in lying back beneath the stars. But people are not so easy for Dink. His mother is verbally abusive and his ex-girlfriend, Sierra, isn’t much better. Although Dink shares that he quite purposefully hasn’t had a drink in a long time, Sierra pressures Dink to give up his sobriety. For most of the film, Dink is entangled in the snare of this woman and dreams of a future with her for reasons we can’t quite understand, and yet of course we do. It’s a truth painfully familiar for many: All too often the heart grows attached to people who only seem to cut us down.

We start to long for Dink’s moments alone, for the gentle space the woods provides. Out there, there’s no judgement. He’s free to chop wood, drink water, make a loud noise. This feels good. This feels right. It speaks to something rooted deep inside, that part that knows it can breathe a full sigh of relief when out alone, surrounded by nothing but trees and sky.

Catch Major Arcana at the Newport Film Festival this Wednesday, May 1 at 8 pm. A live Q&A with Writer/Director Josh Melrod will follow the screening.