I Will Smash You
Think of something that has meaning to you. Anything. It could be a family heirloom, a meaningless trinket, a symbolic construction, or even an ephemeral idea. OK? Now, destroy it. Hit it with a sledgehammer. Set it on fire. Slice through it with scissors. Bludgeon it with an ax. Repeatedly strike it with a hammer. How do you feel?
That's the entire concept of I Will Smash You, as conceived by local author Michael Kimball and executed by Kimball and New York artist/filmmaker/writer Luca Dipierro. Twenty people--18 individuals and one couple--destroy 19 items before the camera, with Kimball briefly interviewing the participants before, during, and after the action. What's disarming about the entire process is not the clever, collateral entertainment damage that comes from staged violence; what emerges from these brief snippets are miniature personality portraits of human beings.
It's a misdirection approach to humanity that snugly gels with Kimball's recent endeavors. His output over the past two years or so--2008's Dear Everybody, a novel of suicide notes; his ongoing, and recently expanded, "Michael Kimball Writes Your Life (on a postcard)" project; his next collaborative movie project with Dipierro, 60 Writers/60 Places--are conceptual conceits, but they would be merely clever if they didn't smuggle intimate interpersonal contraband in the process. Smash never spends more than a few minutes screen time with each participant--the entire movie is roughly 50 minutes long--but what's affecting is who these people become during these moments. Yes, the ostensible focus is the action theater-qua-scream therapy of the actual smashing process, but what you end up taking away from the vignettes is everything that bookends that blink of an event.
Put another way, Kimball and Dipierro have put together a collection of money shots that make you care about who's coming and why. It's amusing when local author Leslie F. Miller obliterates a bust of Zeus, because it's a gift from her mother-in-law and her neighbors have a similar one they keep in their living room. Record nerds may knee-jerk blanch at Gregg Wilhelm putting a flame to his copy of Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade, but it's bittersweet because of what the album represents for him. And young Ella Grossbach destroying a piñata-like representation of her teacher's head is not only adorably brutal, but includes an off-screen voice granting the sort of permission that every child needs to hear at least once: "You can light it on fire, sweetie."
If you've ever fantasized about going positively caveman on something, Smash offers vicarious thrills--personal fave is local author Betsy Boyd mirthfully demolishing her car--but it's the reasons why that stay with you when all that's left is rubble.