TV Review: ‘Visions of a Vivid Life’ is a Stellar Exploration of Memory

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From the mind of Levi Eddie Aluede comes a fascinating, award-winning web-series, Visions of a Vivid Life. In the same way that watching Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things feels like getting an insight into one of your nightmares, Visions is like recalling a dream; consistently surreal and not always forthcoming, the series certainly demands your attention. Aluede reveals little in the way of world-building, but just enough expository dialogue surrounding the business of memory-donation lets you know that a wider, perhaps dystopian, world very much exists.

From the offset, Sayna Fardaraghi’s bleak, moody cinematography and Filipe Silva’s beautiful-yet-foreboding score create a delightful atmosphere of dread – it’s like waiting for a storm you know is coming, and a brilliant jump cut at the beginning of episode two really kicks things off. Whilst jumping to random montages is somewhat cliché when evoking dreams and memory, the hazy, sepia-drenched repetitive scenes are strikingly cut together, and well supported by Silva’s mystical score and the abstract, surrealist movement of Nicole Miners’ Mako. These scenes don’t just evoke dreams and memory, they somehow convey both the absurdity and the pleasure of indulging oneself in them, and, as Mako suggests, highlights how this desire to remain in the rose-tinted past can be dangerously addictive.

What is a life without memory? What would you sacrifice to keep or lose certain moments? As both the title and premise suggest, memories and life are intrinsic to the series, though they are not alone thematically. Death permeates the series, whether it be Charley’s (Lily Walbeoffe) OD and resurrection or the sound of squelching mud and intercut images of rotting fruit and animal skulls surrounding Kafka (Matt Blin) and Emma’s (Elise Palmer) relationship. In this sense, episode three, ‘Memento Mori’ – literally ‘remember that you will die’ – is the strongest of the lot. Kafka’s shock, Mako’s sacrifice, and Charley’s physical corpse are all stark reminders of the horror of death, as well as its ability to conjure and alter memories – a further twist of the knife that only adds to the grief.

The grim nature of these ‘donations’ and existential questions posed about memory and life call to mind the idyllic dystopia of Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’, whilst the dreamlike surrealism is reminiscent of the lyricism and accompanying visuals of Phoebe Bridgers’ latest LP, Punisher. But make no mistake: Visions of a Vivid Life is truly singular. A few bumps are to be expected of a debut web-series – the sound could be smoother, some elements of the plot may be a little too ambiguous for 30 minutes of screen-time to cover – but the thematic depth next-big-thing Aluede covers and allows the series to navigate, and the masterful score from (surely) future Oscar-winner Silva, more than make up for any minor hiccups here and there.

Aside from the now-triggering sight of patients in masks, Visions of a Vivid Life is like indulging oneself in one of the memories Mako harvests: strange, emotional, addictive, but altogether, sublime.

Visions of a Vivid Life is available on YouTube & Vimeo.

Words by James Nash

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