• From Melika Bass’s Waking Things

Tomorrow nightTonight Doc Films continues its local-filmmakers series with two works made in 2011 by Melika Bass, Waking Things and Shoals. Both films appear to take place in the past, yet it’s hard to say exactly when, or if, they take place in the past at all. Bass raises the possibility in each that her characters live in the present but in isolation from modern life. Waking, which recalls such movies about medieval life as Ingmar Bergman’s Virgin Spring, unfolds in a dark wooden house where a family performs arcane rituals in preparation for a great feast. Shoals takes place around a rural sanitarium, apparently in the late-19th century, where three young women are monitored by an older man who may be a doctor or a religious cult leader. In both films, the big picture remains fuzzy while the details are always crystal clear. Shot in long takes and with exquisitely modulated lighting (fellow Chicago artist Lori Felker is the credited lighting director), Bass’s films evoke living paintings—the textures are as inviting as the narratives are withholding.