Watch Wisconsin Death Trip
- 1 hr 16 min
Wisconsin Death Trip is a dark and eerie documentary-drama hybrid film from 1999, based on Michael Lesy's 1973 book of the same name. Directed by James Marsh and narrated by Ian Holm, the movie explores a series of bizarre and tragic events that took place in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, during the late 19th century. Set in the 1890s, the film depicts life in this small Midwestern town as a bleak and hopeless affair. The residents of Black River Falls are plagued by a range of social, economic, and psychological problems, and their lives are marred by poverty, sickness, madness, and death. The film blends archival footage, reenactments, and contemporary interviews with haunting photographs from Lesy's book, creating a surreal and disturbing portrait of a community on the brink of collapse.
One of the central themes of the film is the pervasive sense of despair that grips Black River Falls. Against a backdrop of economic recession, rampant alcoholism, and social isolation, the residents of the town turn to various forms of escapism and self-destruction. Some indulge in opium use or prostitution, while others succumb to suicide or murder. The film traces the fates of several individuals who become caught up in this cycle of misery and violence, including a farmer who murders his wife and children, a young woman who is driven to insanity by the death of her child, and a group of children who engage in a spate of vandalism and arson.
Another key theme of the film is the role of the media in shaping public perceptions of these events. As the film progresses, we see how newspaper reports and photographs sensationalize and distort the tragedies of Black River Falls, turning them into macabre spectacles that both fascinate and horrify their readers. The film suggests that this process of media manipulation and spectacle is not just a historical curiosity, but an ongoing feature of contemporary society, as we continue to be captivated by stories of violence and tragedy.
Throughout the film, the visuals are striking and evocative, ranging from sepia-toned photographs of Victorian-era America to vivid reenactments of the town's most shocking moments. The film's score, composed by DJ Shadow, is equally haunting, blending atmospheric soundscapes with eerie spoken-word samples. Ian Holm's narration is also excellent, lending a tone of somber detachment to the proceedings.
Wisconsin Death Trip is not an easy film to watch, but it is a gripping and thought-provoking exploration of a forgotten corner of American history. By blending fact and fiction, the film creates a haunting portrait of a community on the brink of collapse, and raises important questions about the nature of human suffering, media manipulation, and the power of history to shape our understanding of the world around us. This is a film that lingers in the mind, haunting the viewer long after the credits have rolled.