If you’re looking for a mind-bending indie film, “Coherence” is definitely worth a watch. The movie has an exciting plot and a shocking ending that will leave you thinking about it long after the credits roll. Here’s a breakdown of what happens in “Coherence” and what it all means.
In this article, I want to tell you about the sci-fi movie “Coherence.” With its tiny budget of 50 thousand dollars, this film is impressive in its concept and plot. This is one of those films that you need to watch over and over again, each time discovering some new clues to solve the overall puzzle. I will reveal the critical details of the shooting and explain in detail the plot of the film’s first half.
And it all started with one director looking for a job and hearing only refusals. His name was James Ward Byrkit. At that time, his resume included work as a concept artist in the first 3 Pirates of the Caribbean and director of the short film Tales of the Code: Wedlocked (2011) – a prequel to the first pirates. At some point, he realized he would make the film independently.
So Birkit came up with the idea to make a film “without a team and a script.” Since he decided to shoot in his home, he had to develop a sci-fi concept that would expand the set to a larger scale. Since his wife was eight and a half months pregnant and wanted to give birth at home, she agreed to let him film at the house if he could make the film in 5 nights.
For the role of actors, James called his acquaintances, but at the same time, they should not have known each other. He mentally divided them into groups and couples as if they were friends/lovers. There are eight characters in total. For each actor, Birkin gave their character traits, backstories, and motives. In his experience, he wanted to eliminate the teamwork on stage, where each actor waits for the time to speak. He wanted the characters to listen to each other, participate in the conversation, and experience authentic, lively emotions of surprise.
Instead of a script, he had his “12-page therapy”, which he spent about a year on. It laid out all the plot twists, reveals, character relationships, and pieces of the puzzle that were supposed to happen. Every day, the actors received only a part of these notes, and they came prepared only for their character and had no idea what others came with. So every night, there were real reactions, surprises, and experiences. The goal was to make them listen to each other and plunge into all this mystery (W. Shakespeare used similar methods in his plays).
There were only five people on the film crew: 2 sound engineers, a director of photography, and director and producer Lene Bausager. Only two cameras were used during filming, except for the dinner scene, where there was another camera. One of the main problems is the lack of stabilization and the constant loss of focus. This is the need to allow the actors to move freely around the house. Birkin adjusted the obsession with one hand and showed the actors what they needed, for example, to open the door.
What is the movie “Coherence” about
The next scene is in the kitchen, where the characters are having a casual conversation and getting ready for the party. Again, a sharp transition – the viewer seems to be pushed into an already unfolding conversation. This results from the fact that the film is assembled from cut fragments. As I wrote earlier, the actors were given blanks, the central theme of the scene; they turned on the cameras and told them: well, then you. Most of the time, everyone improvised, and the director and cameraman filmed what they got. The process was not interrupted, even if something went wrong.
Listening to the conversation, the viewer gradually recognizes the characters’ names. Initially, in the house, Mike, Lee (who owns the house), and Beth are cooking. Then Em comes in. Then – Hugh (husband of Beth) and Kevin. Amir and Lori (Kevina’s ex) are the last to arrive. Along with this, from the conversation between Em and Kevin, we learn that he needs to move to another city for work for five months, and the girl cannot decide whether to go with him. She is in a state of uncertainty.
There is a communication problem. Comet Miller, which flies very close over the Earth, can serve as an explanation. The last time this event took place was in the 1930s. The comet had an impact on people: they got lost, appeared not in their homes, in unfamiliar places, and did not recognize their friends and relatives. This story becomes an occasion for jokes.
And the conversation goes back to normal. The characters share various jokes, ideas, facts, and stories. It turns out that although they have known each other for a long time, their knowledge of each other differs from reality. For example, Mike is sure that Laurie teaches yoga. But she never did it. And Mike starred in the popular TV series Roswell, which Lori loves very much, but does not remember. Ordinary forgetfulness or something more?
Then the weirdness starts. The lights go out first and in the block, except for one of the most distant houses. Hugh and Amir go there. Upon their return, they tell what seems to be absolute nonsense. Like, that house is the same and has a table set for eight people, and everything is identical. Naturally, they do not believe him. The characters try to justify everything that happens with scientific, plausible, non-magical, cometary explanations. Thus, the viewer also thinks about whether what is happening on the screen is real.
Hugh did not return empty-handed. He brought a box that contained a ping-pong paddle and numbered photographs of every person in the house. Where they came from, who put them there – no one understands, just guesses. Hugh wants to return to the electricity house so he can ask him to use the phone to reach his brother. For some reason, he writes them a note and attaches it to the door. Suddenly, a stranger is noticed outside the windows. Kevin opens the door, and there is precisely the same note that Hugh wrote. Tense music plays, and, along with the characters’ emotions, the situation’s horror is conveyed to the viewer.
After trying unsuccessfully to figure out what the numbers in the photographs mean, Em, Kevin, Mike, and Laurie head to that second home. They carried blue glow sticks, taken from the box during the blackout. After some time walking, Mike sees his house inside his wife – Lee. Horrified, the four decide to return. On the way back, they run into themselves, only with red sticks.
Returning to the house, they begin to discuss what they saw. No one has an explanation, and then Lee remembers the book that Hugh was sent by his brother Brian. He is a scientist and teaches physics at the university. The book talks about decoherence and Schrödinger’s cat.
For convenience, the following is a retelling of Hugh’s words. “Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment. Suppose there is a cat in the box, which has a 50% chance of survival because there is a mechanism with poison. Classical physicists will say there can be only one scenario, and the cat is either alive or not. But Brian will agree with the followers of quantum physics that both realities exist simultaneously (at the same time). And only when the box is opened they disintegrate into one event.
However, there is another theory. The two states continue to exist independently and decoherent from each other. Each state creates a new branch of reality based on two outcomes, and quantum decoherence ensures that both components do not interact with each other.”
Let’s delve into the topic. Decoherence is a process of violation of coherence, which is the consistency of several oscillatory or wave processes in time, which manifests itself when they are added. Infringement occurs when particles interact with the environment. During this process, the system acquires classical features that correspond to the information available in the background. In other words, coherence is a state of superposition (uncertainty) of an atom when it can be simultaneously in different forms. And interference in the system of something from the environment (for example, an observer) disrupts this process. Decoherence occurs, and the atom acquires a classical state.
Let’s bring it all to the movie. Assume that initially, all realities exist in a coherent state: they exist independently of each other and simultaneously. All facts are combined into one, which is in a state of superposition. A comet appears, and decoherence occurs: realities lose their quantum state and intersect with each other.
Something does not fit – attentive readers will say. The movie uses the terms quantum coherence and decoherence in reverse order. Perhaps this is done to show the world in its mirror image. The idea of looking at glass appears in the film, and one action or event has its reflection in another reality.
Accordingly, there are many realities of the house, in which the characters have characters and stories that differ from their alternative versions. To identify themselves and their “initial” home, they assign a number to each person by rolling a die. And for the house, they take some random item. These actions ensure that, due to chance, the options chosen will differ. There are also many factors that reason, for example: what color is the glow stick, what plaster was used to seal Hugh’s broken forehead, and so on. Attention should be paid to all the little things.
Schrodinger’s cat experiment
It consists of the following.
A cat sits in a closed steel chamber (do not feel sorry for the cat since this is a mental experiment), and next to it is a container with hydrocyanic acid, which, if damaged, can poison our cat.
This container is protected from the direct intervention of the animal, and that is, he cannot break it. However, this flask can be damaged due to a unique mechanism with a radioactive core.
But the probability that this flask will break – within one hour – is 50%.
So, we close the cat in this chamber, wait precisely 1 hour, and then ask ourselves the following question: is the cat alive or dead?
And according to quantum physics, it is believed that while the box is closed, the cat is simultaneously in two states – both alive and inanimate, that is, in two parallel realities. But as soon as the box is opened, the experimenter can see only one state of the cat – either alive or not.
In this regard, the most important question arises: at what point in time does this whole system cease to be the simultaneous existence of two states and become something one specific?
The idea of the experiment formed the basis of this film.
Of course, quantum physics describes the world of atomic particles, the microcosm, and their laws exist.
And so the author of the film takes this experiment of the Nobel laureate as a basis and translates it into our macrocosm.
At the time of the comet’s passage, our Earth becomes a box in which our company of eight friends is locked.
And our heroes, at every moment of their time, make a choice that creates an infinite number of possibilities, that is, realities, and all these realities simultaneously exist on Earth until it is “locked” next to the comet.
And when the comet flies by and the “box” can be opened, what will our heroes see then? What will remain of the infinite number of possible options?
This idea transfers consciousness to some entirely different level of perception of our everyday life.
Our every choice, every little thing, creates an infinite number of possible scenarios.
Feelings from the movie
The film creates a sense of mystery and leaves behind a specific aftertaste. In addition, it keeps you in suspense all the time, and the second half of the film is accompanied by a feeling as if you misunderstood something and didn’t think it through. It becomes somehow slightly uncomfortable and lonely.
See what choice the film’s main character makes and what she gets in the end.
To understand all the subtleties of the narrative, the film should be reviewed twice, at least since you do not immediately begin to guess about some things and nuances.
Overall, this is a long-lasting fantasy thriller with an unpredictable ending.
The atmosphere of the film.
In it, fear is caused not by special effects and plot twists that have already set the teeth on edge but by the essence of what is happening.
You can talk a lot about the idea and the picture itself since the topic is fertile, and if you immerse yourself in it, you can think of and agree on the most unexpected things. And in the mirror late at night, it is easy to see the reflection of supernatural worlds.
It all starts at the moment when the main character drives up to the house of her friends.
Suddenly, her mobile connection is interrupted, and the glass on it bursts. Oddly enough, the glass is not the only one that breaks.
Then the lights go out throughout the house, all communication is completely lost, and the quiet green town turns into a frightening and incomprehensible place.
But this is not the worst. Then a series of events takes place that turns all the usual ideas of the characters about the world upside down.
The heroes themselves do not yet understand what situation they are in and that they will never find a way out of it.
Meaning of the movie “Coherence.”
If you delve into the details of the plot, then the idea that the author was trying to lay becomes clear. We are talking about the struggle of evil with good, which is present in each of us in one ratio or another. It becomes clear that one of the parties wins – depending on the development of events, and even the most seemingly insignificant details can radically change our behavior, character, and personality.
After an indistinct start, the picture is steadily gaining momentum and holds it until the very end with varying degrees of success. Some viewers were dissatisfied with the ending, scolding him for some predictability and obviousness. This fact, of course, does not leave a stunning effect on viewing. Nevertheless, the overall impression remains positive because the story raised many interesting questions and gave severe food for thought. Each viewer can think about their secret fears and put themselves in the place of the main characters – this feature is noted in many reviews of the film “Communication.”
After watching, there will likely be two possible developments. Either you like the movie, start to delve into all this quantum shit, or consider what you see complete nonsense. Imagine that any of these realities exist concerning you.
I liked the movie very much. This is the case when you did not expect anything, looked with half an eye, and listened with half an ear. And in the absence of expectations, the film impresses much more with its mysterious atmosphere and far-fetched science. The film has heavily criticized flaws, but this is fantastic work on a limited budget and opportunities. It would be even better if the director finished the story or gave more clues to decipher it. And so it remains to think out for yourself, reading fan theories.
The film also keeps in suspense because it throws puzzles at the viewer and asks questions. The brain is constantly working in an attempt to find answers. Either it’s a comet, or they’re hallucinating from a ketamine overdose, or whatever. The director tried to make a film for multi-level revisions when with each viewing, you go deeper into the events and move to a new level of understanding.
The director tried to reveal the problem of knowing oneself and other people. Every person, first of all, should understand himself. Understand how he feels and what he wants. For example, Em can’t decide whether to go with Kevin. Not making a decision, she is in a state of uncertainty (superposition). Each choice creates a new branch of reality containing other possible units. This applies not only to their actions but also to world events. Let them be bad for you. Each of them will open up many new possibilities for you. Knowing yourself will allow you to understand the other person better because we are all similar and have similar problems. There is no need to treat people with hostility, as the characters in the film do to alternative versions of themselves. “Know yourself, and you will know the whole world.”
Initially, I planned to decipher the plot fully, but then it would scare away the audience of those who did not watch. Let everyone have their vision of what is happening. I hope I interested you in watching or, if you watched, I revealed some new facts for you. I tried my best to convey information excitingly and understandably. Everything was translated into Russian for a better understanding of you and me. I hope you enjoy both the article and the movie. If you want to know more – study the text and video interview of the director. I have indicated links everywhere, even with time codes. Thank you for your attention!