Who would show up to check-out an apartment for rent in NYC, right next to “ground zero,” immediately during 9/11? The most relentless apartment hunters in the world, that’s who (I could have just said ‘New Yorkers’). Film director Brian Sloan’s (Pool Days, I Think I Do) charged new film WTC View takes it’s title from NYC apartment want-ad lingo, pre-9/11. Set five years ago in New York, lead character Eric has an apartment that faces the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, and is renting out half of it out. He unknowingly places an ad in the Village Voice looking for a tenant, which ends up running on September 11th, 2001. A gaggle of gawkers, talkers and potential takers surprisingly come knocking on the 12th - as he continues to show the apartment immediately after the fateful day. In scenes that almost remind me of that sequence in Apartment Zero (when all the of weirdoes visit a tense but renting Colin Firth’s Buenos Aires loft), those who are obviously seeking much more than an apartment share can’t help but look gaping-eyed out Eric’s apartment’s window at the “view,” asking all kinds of questions not about the rent or the laundry facilities, but about things like the accumulative velocity of human bodies jumping out of burning skyscrapers - veiled inquiries directed at Eric but meant for themselves. This acts as a launching pad for ensuing multiple character drama with some of Eric’s apartment seekers, and his friends. And hence, the sparse apartment and it’s windows become a blank slate for different people’s gut reactions to the events of 9/11, and the way the event stained and enriched people’s normally complex lives, friendships and relationships.
Simultaneously cozy and claustrophobic (the film’s characters almost seem to be protectively hiding inside the sub-let), the film’s camera never leaves the colorful apartment (save for outside the window, looking in at slowly stunned faces) until the end - and the “view” is never actually shown. Shifts in the time of day in the apartment play well - bright daylight switching to blaring night work lights from ground zero shining in through the windows on the dark walls (the most un-ignorable set piece; a red B-52’s ‘Wild Planet’ poster on the wall - which hilariously attains emotional weight as it haunts the drama). The film thankfully has spots of humor, some of it slightly warped - but anyone who lived downtown during that day will tell you that jilted things falling out of people’s mouths during those zombifying few days were nothing more than much-needed shock therapy.
The film has a stage-y, calm feel (think Hal Hartley), and Sloan wisely gets all the motion for the story out of sharp performances from an remarkably excellent cast, who carry the film. Indeed the film’s uncluttered feel came from the stage: it was initially a play which Sloan wrote and directed (and shares some of the cast).
Sloan’s idea might have been too clever for it’s own good if it hadn’t actually happened to him. Sloan actually did live downtown near the twin towers, and placed an ad online to the Village Voice before going to bed on September 10th. In reality, the apartment was un-showable because it was in “the zone,” but the showings of the apartment immediately after the area was cleared, and the subsequent conversations Sloan shared with the array of strangers who came to look, became the inspiration for the script.
This unique film was screened at major festivals, but never had a theatrical release (the original play was part of NYC’s Fringe Festival), but is indeed out on DVD, and available from most renting stores that have a hearty selection of indies, and is also rentable from Netflix. Highly recommended. Everything you need is at the WTC View film site. Here is Brian Sloan’s main site.