Film Review: So You Think You Know How It Ends

The following short films are being screened as part of the When You Think You Know How It Ends programme at this year’s London Film Festival.

Be Still My Beating Heart

Ruth Paxton’s horror short Be Still My Beating Heart is atmospheric. The film is about a woman who is haunted by her work with dead bodies, and the illness of her sister. Writer-director Paxton mixes abject depictions with a quiet psychological terror. The sound design is great; it is a film without much dialogue so the sound goes a long way to give an indication of protagonist’s mindset. Maxine Peake is a reliable as ever in the lead role.

Nimic

The opening music leaves viewers in no doubt this is a Yorgos Lanthimos film. Nimic is about a cellist who has a chance encounter with a stranger on the subway. The film has a distinctive quality; there is a strong sense of uncanny. At twelve minutes long, Nimic does not waste time with explanation. The film is well cast; Daphné Patakia has an unnatural expression which fits perfectly. Matt Dillon’s jaded portrayal is also a good fit.

Rain, Rain, Run Away

Set during a heatwave, Clémentine Carrié’s fifteen-minute film does not go anywhere of note. Rain, Rain, Run Away (Gronde Marmaille) is about two young children who decide to run away from home. Writer-director Carrié achieves an intimacy with her protagonists, but it takes a considerable amount of time for anything significant to occur. When it does, nothing particularly noteworthy follows. Rain, Rain, Run Away has good production values, however.

Roadkill

Leszek Mozga’s stop-motion short Roadkill is weird and wonderful. At eight minutes long, it is the shortest film in the When You Think You Know How It Ends programme. Writer-director Mozga subverts the roles of human and animal. In doing so, the film questions the idea of responsibility and guilt. There are some great edits, and a nervy conclusion make for a memorable and original film. 

What Do You Know About the Water and the Moon

Writer-director Jian Luo offers a strange film with What Do You Know About the Water and the Moon. The premise is bizarre; it offers a good hook. The first line of dialogue does not occur until a quarter of the way into the film. Luo chooses to tell the story visually up until this point. The film features some good imagery, such as the reflection in the vase. The symbolism does not translate to much depth however.

White Girl

Director Nadia Latif’s White Girl is immediately unnerving. A young girl wanders the streets late at night and encounters a range of individuals. The sound design works with Latif’s choice of shots to create an unsettling atmosphere. The thirteen-minute film is pervaded by a sense of mystery; viewers do not know whether to trust those around the girl, or the protagonist herself for half the film. When an incident occurs, motives become clearer and The film ends in a wonderfully gruesome fashion. White Girl is a good calling card for Latif; hopefully we will see more from her. 

Be Still My Beating Heart, Nimic, Rain, Rain, Run Away, Roadkill, What Do You Know About the Water and the Moon, and White Girl are being screened in the When You Think You Know How It Ends programme at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.

Film Review: The House That Jack Built

The House That Jack Built is every inch the Lars von Trier film. The provocative satire should prove rewarding for those receptive to it.

Jack is a serial killer. He recounts five incidents which take place over a twelve-year span. These incidents reveal an insight into an unusual mind…

Writer-director Lars von Trier returns with his most tongue-in-cheek film to date. The House That Jack Built is the blackest of comedies, functioning almost as a satirical memoir of the filmmaker. The film is structured as a series of chapters, with Jack recounting incidents that have shaped his career. This is delivered in the style of a confessional, with Jack’s monologue being occasionally interrupted by the mysterious Verge.

A meditation on morality, violence, and choice, The House That Jack Built feels introspective. Throughout the film, but most obviously during the epilogue, it appears that it is von Trier who is examining his career. As Jack opines on his actions and choices, there is a clear parallel with von Trier and his artistic endeavours. As expected, violence is frequently visited. Although there are some uneasy depictions, it is not shocking coming from chief provocateur von Trier. The filmmaker flirts with the obscene and the absurd, yet those familiar with his work will expect this.

There is a considerable amount of humour in The House That Jack Built, despite the subject matter. Certain situations are bleakly amusing, such as the need of Jack to keep returning in the second incident. As the film progresses, the net closes in on Jack. Yet at times, it seems as if the authorities are willing him to get away with it; a metaphor perhaps for von Trier’s reception in the film world. Matt Dillon delivers an assured and convincing performance in the title role. Production designer Simone Grau is allowed to flourish in the vibrant epilogue.

The various references in the film (including Bowie, Delacroix, even his own movies), reinforce von Trier’s notions of art. In positing murder as art, Lars von Trier offers a hollow provocation – one that seems like it is not meant to be taken seriously. The House That Jack Built is thought provoking and ultimately gratifying viewing.