In Blue, Surrounded by Darkness, Reuben, a craps guru, gathers ten craps players in Las Vegas to advance his notion of “Charm,” a spiritual practice that reflects upon gambling’s true nature. Led by Norman, one of Reuben’s former psychiatric patients, the group is asked to challenge a dark force embodied by an individual known as “The Vulture.” After an initial training session at Reuben’s Crapshram, situated invisibly in the Nevada desert, the players converge on the Nefertitty and Asp, a club in Las Vegas to play the Vulture in a penultimate game of craps. Property and souls are soon on the line. Each wrestles with self-delusion, personal crisis, and the purpose of their life as they take a turn rolling the dice. Only Reuben understands that dreaming itself is both their ante and release, and collaboration the key to their success.
Chance. Confrontation. Charm. Each character on their own is damaged, but taken together they gain meaning and self-awareness by participating in the game. On their journey they are guided and influenced not only by one another but also by witches, a mythic god and supernatural occurrences. Memories and magic play a crucial role in the outcome. The game is not for the weak of stomach or the spiritually feeble.
At its heart Blue, Surrounded by Darkness is a meditation on mystery, what cannot be said or easily distilled, and the ineffable/intangible that holds everything together. Nobody knows what governs the chaos around us, only that by connection are we lead to meaning. Were Blue, Surrounded by Darkness to be made into a film, Wes Anderson would make the ideal director. If certain Hollywood actors were cast in it, I imagine the late Philip Seymour Hoffman playing Norman, the artist in anguish over his lost gift, Danny DeVito being Reuben, the wisecracking ex psychiatrist and gambling maestro, Angelina Jolie in the role of the sultry witch Sarah, and the late Maury Chaykin as Sal, the Las Vegas hit man obsessed with sculpting a bust of Mengele.