The “Hipster Apocalypse” is Here

Posted on October 9, 2012


Courtesy of First Winter

The “Hipster Apocalypse” is Here
by AnneLise Sorensen

“Hipsters Illegally Killed Upstate Deer While Making Hipster Apocalypse Movie.”

Those were the kind of headlines that preceded the premiere of the film “First Winter,” which opened this year. But, as they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity – and the deer-hunting only whetted the appetite of the media.

From Brooklyn to the backcountry: “First Winter” is a dystopic drama about a group of new-age Brooklynites who head off to a remote farmhouse in the wilderness. As the snow softly falls around them, they do things hippies like to do: yoga, organic cooking, athletic sex, sponging each other in porcelain tubs.

But the patchouli-scented idyll soon dissolves: A “blackout of apocalyptic proportions” leaves them with no heat or electricity during one of the most frigid winters on record. As food becomes scarce, so do the bonds of humanity. Survival trumps spirituality: Jealousies and fights threaten the group’s cohesiveness. Nobody’s doing their morning downward-dog poses anymore – they’re scrounging for water.

If the movie seems startlingly real, that’s because it is. As the director, Benjamin Dickinson, has explained in interviews: Only natural light or candles were used, the cast lived together under one roof for the entire 23-day shoot in upstate New York, and the actors fasted when their characters were going into starvation mode. And, yes, they did kill a deer – out of season and without a permit, hence the illegality – and roast it over a fire, all of which was filmed. Plus: The main character is Paul, a yoga instructor from Brooklyn. He’s played by Paul, a yoga instructor from Brooklyn.

But beyond the chatter about “hipster hippies” and “method filmmaking,” “First Winter” is nuanced and masterful – with shades of Ingmar Bergman, whom Dickinson credits as an inspiration. And the movie explores deep, unsettling truths. As Dickinson summed it up in a talk with Tribeca Film Festival curators: “It’s about a group of people learning how to love each other, through a confrontation with their mortality.” And learning how to love the taste of venison.

First Winter,

This review by AnneLise Sorensen originally appeared on MSN (Microsoft Network).