I just saw an indie film today called “Dave Made a Maze”. I have attached for your convenience, O Reader, the trailer.

Watching it, I felt that the trailer actually didn’t spoiler the film. It is full of fantastic cardboard and paper concoctions, breathing paper and silent magic. It’s so simply created and stunning. I definitely intend to collect enough cardboard to make a mini-safer version for me to play in — I mean, for the neighbor kids to wander through for Halloween. Probably both. Definitely both.

What I liked most was that with such an easy setting of mystery and childhood games, the movie really has space to dig into themes of emotional depth and exposition of a relationship. There’s not really a jarring point of where the magic begins and ends; it’s touched on in the film, but not problematically so. The expansion of the inside of the cardboard boxes just is.  Dave has built a maze. We can now proceed with the story.

Annie, played by Meera Rohit Kumbhani, is a familiar character in a lot of ways; she is Dave’s strength, in many ways, keeping him on track. Dave, played by Nick Thune,  has a reputation for never finishing anything. He cares deeply for Annie, but his inability to complete his work continues to get in his way. Their friction during the film back and forth from impatience and frustration to deep connection is simply divine.  when my Fiance and I saw it there were several moments where we found ourselves holding hands, and in large part that’s because the character development was so natural and easy that it just made sense. There weren’t any over-stylized or over-dramatized declarations; it was just clear. Annie is never the shrinking damsel in distress; she comes home, she’s frustrated, and she just wants to see Dave, not the contraption he’s come up. When she finally steps inside, she begins to change her perspective; she sees the beauty and the fabulousness of what he’s made, and sees his drive to complete something. And Dave finds it in himself to want to complete something. To continue to try to complete something, even in the face of adversity, a change from everything he’s done in the past relationship. Such a simple little step forward, and it changes everything.

Gordon, played by Adam Busch, was also familiar and comfortable. As the best friend, he is supportive, funny, and courageous when he needs to be, as well as clever. And I had the weirdest time trying to figure out where I’d seen the actor before. I’m still not one hundred percent sure. But it’s a fun game to play.

James Urbaniak delivers an excellent and driven film director, Harry, so focused on getting his indie film completed that he risks life and limb to ensure that the tale is documented. It creates an interesting pull between the film we see and the film he must be creating. I find myself alternately irritated at him and inspired by his devotion. It breaks the viewer’s perspective at times; how much of the action is scripted? how much of it is an unfiltered reaction? Where does the relation of acting a role, as opposed to feeling your place in a relationship begin and end?

Likewise, the Cameraman is so devoted to his job that at times we shouted at him to take more actions! Stop just watching these things happen around you! How many shots of running do you really need for a documentary? But what do we see when we focus on capturing a single narrative, as well. His view is limited; the action continues beyond and around the view of his camera lens. Nonetheless, he tries to capture what is important and record it. It colors how we understand the events, certainly, but it also shares a perspective of someone’s values. Well played, Scott Narver, well played.

The Boom operator became one of the people we cheered for; he was so fantastic and working both his job and his character involvement endeared him to us. He both does his job and also engages with the world around him. His job allows him to hear what other people can’t, since he has his sound constantly coming through his headphones. But he’s also not limited to his vision, to what he can see, and this frees him.

There is a cast of other characters, but as the core group I found the characters compelling and magnetic, with expressed desires, goals, and complexities (yes, even the Cameramen) developed through obstacles such as mazes within mazes, paper cranes, booby traps, and invasive camera interviews. There are humorous scenes with them, and some scenes of gore which presents itself through confetti and paper streamers in red. It is a strangely effective way to present a death by booby trap. At once there’s the artistic value with the constant question – how much is real in the maze? How many people will actually make it out of the Labyrinth?

Can you die in real life if you die in a dream?

The director! This is Bill Watterson and the entry to the maze.

Some spoilers will follow.

The monsters of the labyrinth range from the beautiful origami cranes which move and flutter in almost muppet-like ways, to the more terrifying Minotaur who travels the depths of the cardboard. There are also insects of paper, and paper bag puppets, and beautiful ladies of shadow and light.

All of these elements are well done, but the minotaur was probably one of my favorite interpretations. Dave has begun to fuse with the maze, and parts of him are changed from his experience physically. Likewise, the Minotaur is the maze beginning to fuse with reality.

The combination of human flesh and cardboard and paper convolutions are stunning.

The various camera angles display the creation here to better advantage, but the shadow of it is rather imposing. I can’t imagine how many hours they must have spent sculpting.

In short, or, TL:DR, I really liked this movie, and think it should be rated higher than it is on other sites; the understatement allows for expansion of wonder and character and I do believe it is an effort, O Reader, that should be rewarded. If you can, please buy or rent a copy of this movie. It’s worth your time to get lost in the labyrinth, just for a little while.

And then, for Halloween, I will make a Maze.