One of the most jolting moments at this year's Sundance Film Festival came in the closing sequence of a movie called "Dark Matter": A disaffected Asian college student abruptly snaps and goes on a bloody rampage, killing professors, classmates and, finally, himself. The audience was plainly shocked, and some critics attacked the finale as a jarring gimmick that, narratively, came out of nowhere.
"Dark Matter" now, of course, would take on a different context to anyone who sees it following the Virginia Tech shootings on Monday that left 33 people dead, among them Seung-hui Cho, the gunman who took his own life and shares much in common with the character at the center of "Dark Matter."
The film, starring Aidan Quinn and Meryl Streep, was actually inspired by another grisly campus crime: The 1991 University of Iowa incident in which Chinese foreign exchange student Gang Lu reacted violently after being passed over for an academic prize and killed five people and left a sixth paralyzed before killing himself.
They may have been inspired by the fact that the shootings happened, but little else resembles what happened at U of I in 1991. What I take exception to about this film is the plot:
The plot of "Dark Matter" follows student Xing Liu (played by Ye Liu), whose proposed thesis delves into the cosmological mysteries of dark matter. Liu's ideas are so innovative that his mentor, Jacob Reiser (Quinn), becomes intimidated and begins to sabotage the younger man's career. The student already feels culturally alienated too, despite the help of an altruistic campus advisor (Streep), and he also becomes financially strapped. Then, feeling robbed of his purpose in life, Liu snaps and picks up a gun.
I clicked into this article, because the title caught my eye. I didn't seriously think that the events which inspired the film would be those same events that have kept me on edge all week, jumping between feverish work, hysterical laughter, and a propensity towards checking my back constantly. I should have, but I didn't.
So, they won some awards at Sundance. BFD.
I think it's time to stop reading the news entirely.