Those who are in the know, know, the former web series The Record Keeper almost never made it to public viewing after the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the original funders of the series, decided to suspend it completely. But one online campaign and a slight format change from series to feature later, The Record Keeper made its world premiere at the Raindance Film Festival on the 26th of September 2014.
The Record Keeper is a collection of the major Bible stories from the perspective of angels. Raina (Lindsay Frame) is a record keeper. Her job is to make an objective record of the history of Earth. She conducts interviews with the angels and demons, and thus we learn the inside story behind the war between the forces of the Prince (Jesus) and the General (Lucifer) who heads an army of defectors. Our story concentrates on an angel and a demon once best friends, but now in opposite camps, who have been allowed to give their accounts together. Larus (Dennis Hill) is a lieutenant in the General’s army while Cadan (JuneSoo Ham) is a lieutenant for the Prince. We listen with Raina and follow our two characters as the war unfolds. No angel can remain unaffected and everyone must choose their side.
Writer, director and producer Jason Satterlund plunges us into a well-constructed Steampunk universe of angels and demons that shies away from classic depictions of Heaven. His aim, we find out in the Q & A later, was to put the story from the perspective of the angels, whose traditional cinematic descriptions he found not very well dramatized and not very relatable. And with strong female characters making a noticeable presence, alongside a very racially diverse cast, Satterlund has definitely brought angels into the 21stcentury. The film also attempts to depict the angels’ inner worlds, showcasing their dreams, their aspirations, and of course their relationships through the ups and downs of the frıendship of Larus and Cadan. It is easy to see how the web series got so many fans hooked so quickly.
Along with this strong visual style, we are also faced with an interesting way of telling of Bible stories. We have before us all the big epics, Noah, The Tower of Babel, Cain and Abel, and of course the life of Jesus. And yet, very little of these stories are actually depicted on our screens. For the most part we listen intently with Raina as Cadan and Larus tell their stories. One piece of advice I would give to anyone viewing The Record Keeper for the first time would be to brush up on their Bible stories. The film assumes the audience is quite thoroughly familiar with the details of these stories – and understandably so as it was originally created for a very specific religious group – so there is very little exposition in the whole film if any at all. Anyone who hasn’t imbued Bible study into their day to day life may struggle to “get” all the references as the film mostly consists of characters speaking about events that are not shown to the audience, so prior knowledge is the key to truly understanding what is being said.
Ultimately though, it is up to the viewer how much they will let it shape their experience. Because yes, The Record Keeper is, without a doubt, a faith based film. But it is also an emotionally charged Steampunk adventure.