The Knockturnal attended New York’s first screening of “Like Cattle Towards Glow” on Thursday evening, at Kickstarter’s Greenpoint Headquarters. The film is a collaborative work by Dennis Cooper and Zac Farley, exploring themes of homosexuality, fetishization, sexual violation, and melancholia.
The ninety-minute feature film is divided into five unrelated chapters, each section with its own characters and its distinctive styles. The stories are decontextualized, forcing the audience to construct their own story and meaning—not much is ever revealed, allowing us to rely on our imagination to complete the full picture with the given segments.
Cooper and Farley startle us from the start: a naked man sits at his bed stroking his erect penis, looking absolutely desolate. The rest of the film is equally as explicit, normalizing the naked male body and desexualizing overt scenes such as this. These pornographic scenes are a result from the directors’ initial intent to create a porn film—it was during the making of the film that the two directors decided to deviate from the porn genre, to create what is now more describable as a psychological thriller.
Many of the scenes are almost uncomfortably long—the camera often zooms in on a character’s face, scrutinizing it for minutes before landing on another face for examination. This extensive observation of the actors’ small movements brings to attention the plain and the familiar: their awkwardness and blemishes resemble everyday people, unlike the romanticized characters we often see on screen. Cooper and Farley’s characters are portrayed as humans rather than actors, individually suffering from their unique obsessions and obscenities of melancholia.
A myriad of moods accumulate in the progression of the film, but a poignant sense of bleakness prevails throughout all five chapters. The characters all seem unanimously cursed by a sense of isolation even when physically interacting with one another. In one narrative, a character performs an interpretation of all the sexual violence he has ever directly and indirectly encountered. As a part of the performance, two other actors interrupt him on stage and sexually violate him—one forces his penis down the performer’s mouth, while the other intrudes the performer’s anus—all in front of an audience. The performer appears to be completely cut off from the rest of the room: there is a recognizable division between himself and his viewers.
Similarly, other characters in the film are distanced from one another. In fact, in the last of the five segments, the two characters in the narrative are physically removed; a woman obsessively watches a man by following him around with a drone camera and through CCTVs. They communicate solely through these technological devices without ever forging real contact.
The chapters cut off abruptly without any sense of resolution; thus the film is both hopeful and hopeless, depending on the viewer’s own interpretation or imagination for how each story will finish. As viewers, we are given the power to dictate the outcome of each narrative and the fate of its characters. Each chapter is like a prompt, and we are to carve our individual stories around it. We see elements of our friends and ourselves in these rather disturbing caricatures because the characters themselves and their narratives are fleeting and incomplete. Like Cattle Towards Glow diverts away from the traditional archetype of movies by allowing us to project our own lives and people onto its stories.