Brand New-U is a film about a man who must kill his old self to create himself anew. Each scene will be harshly realistic – it is the larger structure that will turn viewer expectation inside out.
The film opens as we follow an agitated man SLATER (35) through a red-light district. Moving from body to body displayed in the windows, Slater asks the women: Nadia, where is Nadia? Some women recognise him, treat him with hostility. One woman even spits on him, issuing the warning: leave her alone.
He finds her, it’s clear they have history. He enters her cubicle and follows her up cramped and winding stairs to a tiny apartment. Tells her he needs money: a large amount. And he needs a place to hide. He asks her for more money than she is able to give – it’s an enormous sum for her – even her savings will not help him. He says she is his last chance.
Their conversation is constantly interrupted by ominous scratching and banging sounds from behind the walls. Suddenly the noise stops. A moment later there is a banging on her door. Slater implores Nadia to hide him, says he fears his pursuer will kill him, that he is ruthless. She conceals him in a walk-in closet. From the closet he sees glimpses of a violent altercation between the visitor and Nadia. Until suddenly — only blackness.
When Slater later crawls out of hiding, the room is a bloodstained mess. Sheets have been used to mop up the blood and there are marks on the floor as if the body has been dragged to the closet Slater has been hiding in. When he puts a hand to the back of his head it comes away sticky with blood.
He rifles through Nadia’s possessions: he finds and takes money and a card: Brand New-U. www.brandnew-U.com
Slater passes back through the red-light district, and the now deserted city, down to a dockside. When he sits he realises his whole shirt is soaked with blood. Beyond doing anything further, he curls up and falls into a fitful sleep.
Slater is lying still fully clothed on a hospital trolley when the INTERN arrives at his bedside to explain the ward is full. They need his bed; he must leave. “Be happy they found you so soon. You’ll be fine.” Slater begs to be allowed to stay. The intern acknowledges Slater is in serious trouble, but his insurance does not qualify him for further in-patient treatment. As Slater stands, and a nurse already wheels his trolley away, the intern turns back. “We found a card, in your pockets. Brand New-U. You know these people?” Slater says he does not. The intern looks around, uneasy: “It’s unofficial,” he mutters, “not strictly legal – but it’s a free service. But they might help a man in your situation.”
The waiting room Slater finds himself in later is very shabby. The only colour the droning flatscreen.
Brand New-U – a new kind of franchise. Other Self-Help programmes tell you to change yourself: it’s hard work, it’s a bore, it never works. We offer to help you find a new life. We say: Get a Brand New Life and you’ll feel different, act different, BE different and better.
Slater’s INTERVIEWER fiddles with his handheld as he explains: “Our Service is simple. We profile you. We select a candidate to be a life donor. We eliminate them, and you take up residence in their life. Step into their shoes completely unnoticed. You will disappear, leave all your problems behind. You must take NOTHING from your old life with you. It’s a kind of satori.”
Of course there’s a price to pay. A life. Slater’s told he’ll be asked to pay with a single killing for the new life he’s been given. Not immediately, but maybe one day, he’ll have to empty a life for a new customer to take over. “After all,” the interviewer explains, “we are a co-operative undertaking – taking – control of our lives through helping each other.”
A logical bargain? Brand New-U is SLATER’s personal doorway to a nightmare world of looping realities.t