Directed by: Niklas Berggren
Starring: Clarissa Hoffman, Ellis Miller, Eve Coquillard, Cynthia Aileen Strahan
Short Film Review by: Darren Tilby
Below the surface of Niklas Berggren’s seemingly run-of-the-mill drama lies a movie which is as complex as it is beautiful.
As the movie begins, the soundtrack, dimly lit environment, and long slow panning movements of the camera; scanning across the bathroom sink at seemingly mundane items – a bunch of flowers, a burning candle, his and her toothbrushes, and a pill pot – come together to conjure an atmosphere comparable, almost, to a horror film. The tone of the film reminded me of The Babadook; a visually and darkly characterful movie that used the horror genre as an avenue with which to explore the destructive nature of grief.
This is the atmosphere short film Faithful maintains throughout much of its thirteen-minute duration, before slightly petering out during the third act.
The difference being, where grief in The Babadook is outwardly destructive, violent, and very apparent, grief in Faithful is self-destructive and more subtle; the damage and consequences, however, are no less severe.
The cast of Faithful is adequate and for the most part, deliver their lines in a believable and timely manner; although some of the dialogue does seem more forced than natural, I suspect this may be more down to what is a rather gauche script in places.
Clarissa Hoffman is well cast in the lead role of Lauren – an emotionally introverted young woman – a role that requires a considerable range of emotions to be displayed, almost entirely through body language and facial expressions. And although Hoffman does slip up in places, this form of acting is one of the most difficult around and she deserves full credit for the performance she puts on screen.
Brooke Schulte’s cinematography is perhaps the movie’s most impressive aspect; the lighting and camera work is virtually perfect: coming together with the score – which is strong during much of the movie, but does trail off during the third act – to help create a truly gripping and intriguing film.
Whilst this is assuredly to the movie’s credit, it does give rise to problems: the main issue being the presence of some very clunky editing.
At several points during Faithful – which I was thoroughly engrossed in – I found myself being ripped out of the experience by shots that ended far too suddenly; sometimes whilst actors were still reacting to something that had just happened or been said, or by shots that went from being extremely dark, to extremely bright; making for disorientating, sometimes confusing viewing.
My other complaint I have is with the lack of time perception: I had to rewatch the short film several times to finally realise that certain scenes of the movie take place — well — I still don’t really know. Months? Years, later?
I realise it’s a short movie, and due to time constraints it’s a hard thing to do without having a bold “12 months later” or such screen appear; something I’m not keen on and indeed wouldn’t have worked here. Nevertheless, something was needed, just to help the viewer along a little, and not having that knowledge merely serves to sow the confusion created by the editing.
Faithful is an intelligent, psychological drama and has a lot to discover within its thirteen-minute running time. All things considered, I have really enjoyed watching this movie. I’ve seen it several times now, each time I’ve spotted more seemingly irrelevant but actually really important clues, pointing to the reveal at the end of the movie. In Faithful, the devil’s in the detail and not much appears on screen without reason.
Whilst this movie certainly isn’t great, it does offer heaps of potential wrapped up within it; namely its director (Niklas Berggren), its lead star (Clarissa Hoffman), and its cinematographer (Brooke Schulte.)
All names I will be eagerly looking out for in the future.