So, Friday night was RSAMD’s screening of graduate films. I’ve not been to one of those since…well since I was graduating myself actually. I’d forgotten how enjoyable these things are, though being thoroughly intimidated by the quality of work on show was a new one for me. In fairness the BA Digital Film & Television students at RSAMD spend two years working on their films, as apposed to the three months students at Stirling spend on theirs. Unsurprising given that the film course at Stirling isn’t a dedicated Production course so the related units are more diverse – I’m willing to bet I know more than these guys do about producing radio drama for example. All that not withstanding the sheer quality of work on display was impressive, there were flaws and plot holes and room for improvement certainly, but nonetheless they were still better than a lot of short films I’ve seen by so-called professional film-makers.
Ghost Story (Gillian Park)
When things go bump in the night, Karrie begins to suspect she is not alone in the neglected town house she is renovating. Her fear soon subsides as she asks herself; is it possible to fall in love with a ghost?
This is a film with one of the most perfectly matched locations I’ve ever seen – the house almost feels like a character in its own right here. It’s beautifully shot, especially in the early scenes where Karrie’s wandering the house alone, bonding with it. I enjoyed the way Karrie’s early interactions with the ghost were played, the little things that happen and her responses to them that make it clear that the ghost isn’t trying to scare her, but very definitely wants her attention. Conversely I also enjoyed the way these interactions trail off while she’s decorating, making her own space and setting her own terms for any future relationship. Inevitably for me, the sound helped this one sneak into my heart, creating the atmosphere of the empty house and the not-as-empty-as-it-should-be house. The music use was also nicely done, the two different eras used fitted together better than expected – though I must admit that Old Old Fashioned by Frightened Rabbit is one of my favourite songs off their last album so I may be a tad biased there.
Paperskin (Steven Ferguson)
When Tom falls for his new co-worker Martha he finds his disguise begins to crumble revealing his ‘true’ identity. He is faced with the question of whether he can ever show who he really is or will he have to live in the shadows forever?
This was my favourite of the films without a doubt. The initial premise of the film didn’t grab me originally, but the way in which it was executed, especially the slow-burn of our discovery of Tom’s condition completely won me over. The prop design and photography on this film is just gorgeous. In particular, there’s a really lovely shot of Tom and Martha on a bench in front of the unexpectedly red painted gable end of a tenement which I personally like for the use of colour contrast and people I was with who know substantially more about that side of things, tell me is both a beautiful and classic shot. The little details really made the film for me, so I feel the need to give a nod to the Art Director Ashleigh Blair and the Production Designer Richard Evans – that paper spider stole my heart – good work there. The use of make-up in the film is lovely and subtle, reminding me of Pleasantville in the best possible way.
Überman (Mark Rowley)
Überman fights for justice. David does the dishes. David is Überman. David loves Amanda. Amanda wants to leave. David reveals his secret to Amanda. Amanda stays for Überman. Who is David?
This had so much potential to be something brilliant, but it never quite lives up to that potential. It starts well – the early fight scene is fun, as are the scenes where David and Amanda run around town after his alterego is revealed – but it runs out of steam later on, never quite settling into a consistent tone. Seemingly unsure whether it wants to play David’s dilemma/situation seriously or for laughs. It was certainly the worst film of the bunch, but wasn’t terrible by any means, more a little disappointing and suffering somewhat from comparison with its fellows.
Room 9 (Fiona Wood)
A young hotel laundress develops a fantasy relationship with clothes from a mysterious guest.
There’s something tender about this film, something strange and beautiful, that moved me – I was crying out of one eye by the end of it – for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s been pointed out by others that the portrayal of a hotel laundry isn’t a very realistic one; it’s been a long time since laundry came sealed in paper rather than shrink-wrapped plastic and the room numbers really do not correspond with a hotel big enough to maintain a guest laundry service as big as the one she maintains. However, applying real-world logic to this film feels a touch futile. This is a film about a girl who takes care of clothes and dreams of clothes that take care of her; all her diligence and tenderness returned. Reality is not exactly needed or wanted, neither by the plot or the central character.
As a group the films all had certain similarities, for a start the supernatural bent to all the stories – although presumably that was in the brief they all had to work with. Three out of the four films were very quiet films, with subtle emotion and colour palettes; whereas the fourth film, Überman, stood out for having brighter colours and stronger emotions. (Perhaps intentionally? I suspect if all my colleagues were making gentle, serious films, I’d want to make something loud and brash and bright too.) Where all four films unite again is that they seem to be about the spaces between people and I think, probably because of that space, the viewer becomes aware of another shared trait; of the technical production skills being better than the script-writing skills. Nonetheless, I look forward to seeing work by all of these writers when they’ve got a bit more experience, or perhaps just a better script editor.