Today, filmmaker Jeffrey Rettberg released a devastating 27-minute short titled "Devotion." It's ostensibly about the complexities of love, relationships, and family, though that undersells the film a bit which has echoes of slow-burn filmmakers such as Kelly Reichardt or Ti West, and swirls around an extended and ultimately terrifying monologue from one of its main characters.
"Devotion's" music is by Matmos' M.C. Schmidt and employs techniques that should be familiar to fans of Matmos and in particular, Schmidt's 2015 solo album, "Batu Malablab"—the same fixed piano heard on this project was used there too. City Paper readers would surely be familiar with director Rettberg thanks to his work on JPEGMAFIA and Freaky's video 'I MIGHT VOTE 4 DONALD TRUMP' and the loosely related short film, "The Southern Strategy." Below is Rettberg's touching director's statement in full:
"What does it mean to devote your life to another and what are the consequences of never having loved oneself? In 2012 I was still sorting through the wreckage of a six-year relationship that ended very badly. I was also recovering from the wounds of a very serious head-on auto collision that I was in with my girlfriend at the time (who I would later marry). One late night running over it all again in a haze of painkillers and alcohol I kept coming back to my Aunt and Uncle, whom the main characters of Devotion are based on. It always struck me as a beautiful thing that the challenging nature of their relationship (he is quadriplegic) never seemed as anything more than a fact of their shared life. Their love is strong, powerful and obvious to all who they encounter and it remains so in the face of greater strains than most will ever know.
The contrast with my own past experience at the time was stark. Dismissive indifference, lackadaisical commitment, unrealistic emotional expectations coupled with underdeveloped views of oneself and ones partner, dishonesty and betrayal; the unfortunate undercurrents of so many relationships both romantic and otherwise. The goal of DEVOTION was to explore the dichotomy of these relationships
It is also about the danger of refusing to seek help. The danger of not ever developing the self awareness and self-love to realize when you are unwell and need help. The rot that spreads when you can not acknowledge and accept your vulnerability is a destructive force in our world and is a pervasive problem in the psyche of many American men. The stigmatization of mental illness and vulnerability being major drivers of this. The process of making this project revealed many truths about my own struggles with depression, the reluctance towards treatment and the impact that that resistance has had on my own life. It is my hope with DEVOTION to spark conversations about the nature of commitment, responsibility and love to ourselves and to each other."
DEVOTION from Jeffrey Rettberg on Vimeo.