In 1935, Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrodinger introduced an intriguing proposition in the field of quantum mechanics. In a complex scenario involving a cat in a box, Schrodinger’s thought experiment reveals that without direct insight into a constrained and hermetic environment, it is impossible to deduce what is happening. In the eyes of the observer, the cat inside the box is simultaneously dead and alive at the same time.
Toronto based filmmaker duo, Nasim Naghavi and Amir Ganjavie, allude to Schrodinger’s thought experiment through the course of their film, Into Schrodinger’s Box, which premieres at the Fall 2021 New Jersey Film Festival on September 17th. Filmed during the initial hysteria and the unprecedented early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Into Schrodinger’s Box is a daring Indie psychological thriller unlike anything before it.
The film centers around a middle aged musician named Sofia (Ada Shkalla), who has to navigate the tribulations of quarantine and the intensifying burden of loneliness after her husband (Goeff Mays) is infected by COVID-19. Upon the arrival of a mysterious and seductive woman named Lilith (Lee Lawson) into her home, Sofia encounters a whirlwind of oscillating complex emotions as she comes to terms with Lilith’s presence and its implications as the pandemic intensifies outside the confines of her home. Into Schrodinger’s Box is unlike anything before it for two reasons: the special circumstances around its production process and its brilliant original premise. It primarily excels because the story is as intrigued in exploring the layers of its protagonists just as much as the makers behind it are in the status quo.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing and unfortunate circumstance worldwide, even as vaccinations become increasingly widespread. Among the physical and emotional distress it has inflicted, the discussion of mental health and psychological distress has now become more prevalent. Naghavi and Ganjavie are able to shed light on the notions surrounding mental health through a delicate and expert handle on how extended periods of solitude can impact a woman’s health through a fictional lens. Even more remarkable is that nowhere does this film feel like a byproduct of a creative process that rushed to materialize at the onset of a major world health crisis.
Into Schrodinger’s Box is also aided by a superb cast that stood up to the challenge of completing this film in a short time frame. As Sofia, Ada Shkalla is a confident performer on camera that shoulders the film for a great majority of its duration. She perfectly captures the pain and frustration of a woman battling an unforgiving quarantine that questionably leaves her descending into madness while imbuing her character with layers that cause you to speculate what you’re witnessing. Matching her step by step is Lee Lawson, who is a delight to watch on screen as Lillith. A Toronto native and an actor with a prolific resume for the last six years, Lawson is at times, a force of nature. She’s incredibly vulnerable when the story demands and she is as easily rooted and calibrated in her performance when it is required of her. When the two actors finally establish a synergy in their relationship towards the late stages of the story, the film provides its best moments. These two actresses have very promising careers ahead of them, not only in the Indie scene, but beyond it.
The ambiguous and strange occurrences that plague Sofia blur the lines between peculiar dreams and stark realities. Yet, for a story that seems to be initially driven towards casting its protagonist as an unreliable narrator, the beauty of Into Schrodinger’s Box (without spoiling the premise) is that it's crafted with the perfect blend of suspense and ambiguity to invite interpretation from audiences. Just as Schrodinger’s thought experiment perplexed academics and students for decades, Naghavi and Ganjavie leave you with as much food for thought.
Complementing an interesting storyline, effective performances, and good direction are the production values. The film has impressive production values considering its behind the scenes complications and from a technical standpoint, the camera work is purposeful and creates and dispenses suspense and tension with the utmost ease. When Into Schrodinger’s Box leads to certain revelations -- both shocking and pleasant -- the atmosphere maintains the intensity required for audiences to struggle to assess the grand scheme of things. It’s quite well done and enjoyable for the most part. It certainly isn’t without its flaws, but when a film -- regardless of the hurdles it encounters in its materialization -- leaves you at the edge of your seat trying to outwit a film that’s already been “predetermined,” you know it has succeeded in its intended purpose.
Into Schrodinger’s Box is an achievement in minimalist storytelling, where larger than life sets and months of filming aren’t required to deliver a proper cinematic experience. It’s a pleasant surprise and certainly one that will leave you scratching your head in the best way possible. For its compelling cast and authentic premise, Into Schrodinger’s Box is an entertaining watch. Don’t miss it! More info on this screening is here. Here below is the film's trailer: