The first time I watched Temple Wood: A Quest for Freedom I figured I was missing something. So I watched it a second time. Now I’m thinking this movie’s mode of linear storytelling is a trap and Temple Wood isn’t supposed to make sense. For example: the Quest for Freedom part of the title means nothing in the context of the movie.
When Professor Martenson disappears his (graduate) student Martin decides to investigate, contaminating a crime scene and finding a book in the professor’s study about Temple Wood. Despite it being the 21st century, Professor Martenson writes using a dip pen. Martin himself uses a Walkman instead of an iPod. Could this be a clue?
For reasons I don’t understand Martin decides to visit Temple Wood. He treks to the town of Kilmartin, which is, as his landlady points out, an unfortunate name for him. Martin’s rented attic room is bright yellow and full of kids’ books and toys. Some of the movie’s imagery suggests that Martin himself is a child. There are also weird sexual images; the most disturbing sequence in this movie is sexual.
Martin enters Temple Wood, a stone circle covered in rocks. Was the site decommissioned by the ancients – or are they trying to imprison something? Beats me! Martin visits Temple Wood a second time that night in his dreams and sees a group of cultists performing a ceremony. He runs away from the cultists in a goofy-looking scene and then meets the Sunflower Man. I’m not sure if the Sunflower Man is supposed to be scary, funny, stupid, or all of the above. The Sunflower Man is surreal, which I like. The Sunflower Man is part of a dream, and dreams aren’t supposed to make sense.
The plot moves on, but it doesn’t really matter. In the end what we have is a hodgepodge of bizarre imagery: the Sunflower Man, a yellow room, a pair of shoes with the laces tied together and Martin waving his weenie around and yelling. It’s possible Martin is crazy. He sees people appear and disappear. He doesn’t interact with anyone but his landlady, whom he sees as a mommy/lover figure. Martin resembles a Lovecraftian hero in his total isolation. He wears a single set of clothes, carries around a copy of the Necronomicon and is a social outcast.
Temple Wood is short, about an hour long. I couldn’t figure it out, but I’m not sure that’s a valid critique. The movie may be satire, or perhaps it has a deeper meaning I’m missing. Maybe I should watch it a third time…
Definitely worth a viewing, but watch at your own risk!