‘Upstream Color’, directed by Shane Carruth, is a movie about the awkwardness of being. It tells the story of love in the time of liquid modernity that negates ontological definitions. The director takes us to the world that doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘stability’. Its protagonists are stigmatized by the mark of the disintegrating certainty. Not only salmons are swimming upstream here.
Carruth creates the world that is a reflection of consciousness, not objective reality. It tells the story of existence that is inexplicable and permanently infected by the possibility of death. The influence of a mysterious organism puts a woman and a man in a very strange position – it seems to be an incorporation of love that is more metaphysical than romantic.
‘Upstream Color’ is also a story that discredits and deconstructs the vision of identity that is understood as an unchangeable creation, which guarantees the stability and certainty of ‘self’. Carruth presents identity as an imperfect form that can forget, and that can’t be sure of its destination. ‘Self’ is forced to never-ending process of re-defining and re-negotiating meanings and memories. Identity is an illusion and it has a performative nature. Is a story that determines life – it needs to be told. Telling the story is a synonym of creation – ‘self’ is a construction, but it doesn’t have to be a lie. The visual, eccentric, surreal aesthetics of the whole movie seems to be a reflection of this instability that defines human beings. The director highlights here the permanent necessity of (re)creation – we don’t exist outside the representation/performance.
What’s more – ‘Upstream Color’ is not only a story of self that is not able to find its own definition. It’s also a tale about the disintegration of the ontological stability of the world that loses its basic boundaries – fiction becomes a part of reality and vice versa. Love story in this movie is seems to be a narrative frame, but impressions and abstract values seem to be more important than regular narration. Love turns out to be a medium of existential truth. That’s why ‘Upstream Color’ should be described as a poetic, metaphysical movie that is based on emotions and affections. Its protagonists dedicate their life to the search for truth. Poetry becomes a synonym of a parallel reality that can be find upstream regular, ordinary colours. It’s not an easy thing to watch, but poetry shouldn’t be simple – it must be dangerous.