Written by: Adam Vaughn | October 8th, 2023
Bark (Marc Schölermann, 2023) 3 out of 4 Stars.
Marc Schölermann’s Bark takes its simplicity and runs with it beautifully. Set in the middle of a vast forest, it follows Nolan (Michael Weston, Adam) as he wakes up tied to the base of a tree, left without food, water, or shelter of any kind. Struggling to survive and awaiting death, Nolan is visited only by the elusive “Outdoorsman” (A.J. Buckley, Rabbit), who lets Nolan know that his confinement is not a coincidence. Thus sets an intense, and fairly unpredictable plotline that, while never reaching any truly effective character study, keeps the viewer engaged and thrilled.
A major strength to Schölermann’s Bark is Michael Weston’s definitive performance as white-collared man Nolan struggling to stay alive. With his dedication to a survivalist performance comes tension and raised stakes, which keep the viewer uneasy. While Schölermann could have done more to support his sole, single lead, Weston’s dedication to a man of privilege slowly losing his humanity remains at the center of the film’s strong suits.
Alongside Weston’s performance, A.J. Buckley delivers a unique antagonist role, never truly playing a sinister character but rather an upright figure of Nolan’s torment. The Outdoorsman has his motives, and Nolan is at all times at the mercy of a man with an agenda. What makes this interesting is that Schölermann (Pathology) is able to bring out the most in Nolan through these sets of dialogue, showing that a man on the edge of death will display his true colors, be it prejudice, privilege, or simply a vicious personality.
Ultimately, Bark leads the viewer to the final confrontations with the Outdoorsman, and the big reveal which explains why Nolan has been punished to begin with. The final act finds a clever way to tie all points together. While this film is often restricted by its minimalism, limited by where it is able to go with its themes and messages, overall Schölermann does a lot with a little, giving the viewer a thought-provoking thriller that keeps you guessing until the end.
[Bark just had its world premiere at the 2023 Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.]