It was a boring summer in 2015 with nothing to do, and one day the underground filmmaker Phil Stephens grabbed his 50mm camera, started taking some random photos around his house in Philadelphia and headed out to the local woods to film more random stuff. After hours and hours of footage, he handed the raw material to his friend and editor Ronnie Sortor, who did his very best to stitch it all together to resemble a feature film. Both films, Lung and Lung II, have the same runtime of 1 hour and 14 min.
Lung (also called Lung one) is in all black and white and starts off with a nameless young man with long hair, beard and glasses (played by the director himself) who dismembers body parts with a cleaver. After this warm and welcoming opening, we’re out in the woods where we follow the same person (I assume), credited as Unknown, as he wanders aimlessly through the woods. We can already guess he’s an escaped mental patient judging by his clothes and the ID wristband.
Mr. Unknown sees a baby carriage on a small bridge which holds a baby skeleton. Of course. He then sees some obscure person wearing a gas-mask. Okay. And he continues to stumble upon more corpses, skeletons and, if not dream logic, absurdities the further he goes from the next area to absorption. He walks through some hoods in the Philadelphia area where he enters his house, where he goes more insane and has a mental breakdown in the bathtub. He sees a collection of flyers and photos from Flowers (Stephen’s previous film) everywhere, which seems to trigger him. Not much hope for better days is to be seen on the horizon.
According to Phil Stevens, Lung was originally meant to be an autobio of the director who went insane after the traumatic experience of shooting his second film, Flowers.
Lung II is more or less the first film all over again just with the concept of an escaped killer on the loose. Much of the same footage from the first film is used while some new scenes are added. Some unused footage from Flowers is also stitched in. And if you don’t know beforehand that this is some sort of a prequel to Flowers, you’ll sit there with a big question mark while you’re scratching your balls. Lung II screws more with your head than the first one as it’s filled with more cryptic weirdness, more slimy skeletal corpses, the sweet smell of decay everywhere and all in a universe not too far from David Lynch’s Eraserhead. There’s also a gooey piece of flesh in Mr. Unknown’s fridge with a vagina and an erected penis, just so you know in case you’re hungry.
And if you haven’t already guessed it, we are talking about two very experimental arthouse films, the one more confusing than the other. So don’t expect any conventional story-telling here. I could tell just from looking at the DVD cover that it was far away from the ordinary, and that’s what I got. The mood and state of mindset is everything, of course. What Lung(s) provide really well are the visuals and atmosphere by Phil Stevens, who has a sharp eye for black and white photography. He filmed both films by himself, with handheld and static from different angles, and managed to create the sense of a bleak, nightmarish, dystopian world which we all are welcome to get lost in. Just remember to put your shoes on.
Lung is available on DVD from Unearthed Films which include both films with the director’s commentary track, plus some of his short films. You can also watch it for free on Phil Steven’s own YouTube channel.
Writer and director: Phil Stevens
Country & year: US, 2016
Actors: Phil Stevens, David Chopping, Bryant W. Lohr Sr., Samantha Coppola, Angela Jane, Colette Kenny Mckenna, Michael Kennedy a a lot of corpses
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt23396630/ & www.imdb.com/title/tt5073690/