“Into Schrodinger’s Box,” which will be shown at the fall 2021 edition of the New Jersey Film Festival, takes a classic film genre and enhances it, effectively, in a pandemic setting: The psychological thriller, in which the protagonist is alone and afraid, with the viewer unsure if the threats are real or emanating from the protagonist’s mind.
Iranian-Canadians Amir Ganjavie and Nasim Naghavi directed the film, which stars Ada Shkalla as Sophia, a concert pianist whose husband becomes seriously ill, gets diagnosed with COVID and has to be hospitalized. Since Sophia has been exposed to the virus, she must stay in isolation for two weeks, staying in touch by phone or computer with her husband, his doctors and a social worker.
As the days go by, we see Sophia coughing more often, suggesting that she, too, is infected. But every time she calls to get her test results, she is told they’re not ready.
Of course, anyone who does come into her physical orbit — and a few people do, in the course of the film — is in danger as well, whether they know it or not. This only raises the viewer’s anxiety level.
The slow-moving but absorbing film is set almost entirely in Sophia’s home. It’s a spacious home, and Ganjavie and Naghavi keep the visuals engaging by filming from many different angles, and with shadows of countless different shapes and sizes in the background.
At first, Sophia passes the time by cleaning, as if that will protect her. (She obviously doesn’t watch a lot of thrillers.) Soon, more pressing concerns develop. We see things happening but sometimes don’t know if the action is real, a dream, a hallucination by the increasingly unhinged Sophia, or even, somehow, the creation of Sophia’s husband, who is a filmmaker.
During the pandemic, of course, we’ve all been living in our minds more than usual, and living with fear. Everything is out of whack. I don’t understand quantum mechanics well enough to explain what Schrodinger’s box is. But the point of the title, I gather, is to suggest a scenario in which what is real is not a simple, easily answered questioned.
Naturally, Ganjavie and Naghavi include some of the trappings of the pandemic: The face masks, the swab tests, the FaceTiming and so on. More important, they create a sense of looming dread that seems very appropriate for this historical moment.
“Into Schrodinger’s Box” will be available online on Sept. 17 and will be shown Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. at Voorhees Hall #105 at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. It is part of the fall 2021 edition of the New Jersey Film Festival, which runs in person at Rutgers and online, Fridays through Sundays from Sept. 10 to Oct. 10. For more information on all films in the festival, visit njfilmfest.com.
Here is a trailer for “Into Schrodinger’s Box”:
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