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Fools in Love

A Short Film Program of the Philadelphia Film Festival 2003

By Tim Stopper

Philadelphia Film Festival 2003

From Mesmer, With Love or Tea for Two

Mexico, 2002, Salvador Aguirre

This short film from Mexico is a funny, well-crafted portrayal of a quiet young psychology student who gets an idea to seduce his neighbor through hypnosis. A young Fred Rogers? Not quite. But the woman doesn’t seem to mind being the neighbor of our young Mesmer.

Close-ups, lighting, and great environmental composition (architecture, slatted shutters, shots of windows) within the frame made this a beautiful, honest, but jarringly absurd depiction of a classic male fantasy.

The sense of discomfort as the viewer contemplates the line between the protagonist and any date-rapist continued to keep me writhing in my seat until the end. The performances by the actors were simple and not overstated. They made a real contribution towards making the characters resonate with greater honesty, and therefore, humor, even in moments of greatest tension.

****

Fork Keeps

Canada, 2001, Anne-Emanuelle Romanelli

An argument for what can be the irresistible force of human chemistry. Through a skip-frame playback , primary colors and fuzzed borders, our heroine is forced to resort to the personals. She has a penchant for swallowing dinner forks as she deconstructs her life. Her story is narrated by her unusually attentive and articulate goldfish.

Romanelli takes us through the anxiety of an awkwardly silent blind dinner date. The silence is never really indulged, however, as voice-overs remind us of how active and noisy we really are – mentally - during an awkward silence. It’s pregnant with the fear of “what might be on my face?” “what should I have worn?,” and the inevitable question of what price is to be paid, what compromises made for the lofty goal of cohabitation.

This was a fun, true look at youthful sexual attraction and animal magnetism.

****

Ina’s Birthday

Germany, 2001, Andre Bergelt

This short demonstrated how well subtly talking around loneliness and suggesting at hopelessness can be equally or more effective than saying it through voice-over. Andre Bergelt uses the medium of film and the genre of the short film to tell a story in a way only film can tell it – with silence, observation, and editing. Although there is dialogue, the story is in what remains unsaid.

Ina is celebrating her 65th birthday. Relatives have called to cancel their plans for her birthday, telling her they’re sure she’ll have fun, but finally no one shows up.

A scene shows her having just gotten home from the hospital after a delusional attempt at suicide. She sits quietly on the carpeted floor in her apartment, removes her wedding ring - she has lost her husband an undetermined number of years before, and begins repairing her best dress. We soon find out why.

Ina’s Birthday develops characters to great depth with minimal and seemingly unrelated dialogue. Subtext is king. It’s through the compassionate eye of the camera that we are immersed in Ina’s birthday journey past loss and loneliness.

*****

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