Scars

Basically a short, stretched to the limits of a feature-length film, James Herbert's Scars is an exquisitely mounted but pretentiously thin examination of youth angst, with strong emphasis on nudity and eroticism. The two-character narrative, shot in stylized black-and-white montages, should travel the festival road as a sampler of experimental and academic filmmaking, though theatrical prospects are dim for this unexciting endeavor.

An art professor at the University of Georgia, Herbert is an experimental filmmaker whose background is in painting, photography, and music videos. All of which shows in his feature directorial debut, Scars, a visually intriguing but narratively lean meditation on physical, psychological and emotional scars, related in a rather monotonous way by two extremely handsome and photogenic youngsters who parade in front of the camera in various postures and compositions.

The film begins with a young man (Carter Davis) slowly removing his clothes and telling the story of a huge scar, which runs from his chest to his belly, incurred during a skateboard accident. In the next sequence, he encounters a young woman (Alexandra Rosetti), also naked, on a mountain road. They commence trading stories about their pasts while engaging in lyrical lovemaking.

Almost always in the nude, the youngsters show fascination with each other's body, intensely looking at and examining them. Director Herbert places them in various locales: a Greek Temple, a forest in Tuscany, an empty train car, a staircase of a deserted house and different bedrooms. For a while, their psycho-sexual journey, as they recount traumatic experiences of their past, sustain interest. One particularly effective segment is the girl's recollection of her drowning in the ocean and how she was saved. Each story is fractured and intercut with captivating images of the duo.

Nonetheless, Herbert's excessive preoccupation with the formal positioning of his couple against magnificent landscapes, asking them to pose and even mimic statues, drains the film of the little energy it possesses. Result is a series of almost still tableaux that are beautifully lensed by Herbert and precisely edited by Mark Jordan, but devoid of the emotional complexity the director must have intended the movie to evoke.