- Directed by Daniel Michalos -
Have you ever wanted something impossible to achieve? It’s very likely that you did- we all do, whether it’s about being someone who we’re not, or being capable of doing something which we just can’t. But, have you simply acknowledged that incapability and moved on, labelling the very idea of once reaching it as fantasy, or have you instead done everything in your power in order to push the boundaries and get as close as possible to that ideal? Well, Marla has.
Marla is working in a Japanese strip club, and is presumably doing a fine job. She does stick out as the odd element, though, as a result of her Caucasian ethnicity. All the other girls are locals, some friendlier to her than others. While patrons might not mind this difference, or would even welcome it, Marla is not content with her fluent mastery of the language and the expertly applied makeup, which does make her look ever so less European. She has her mind set on being Japanese, from head to toe- and is discouraged by every little detail that betray her origins. Helped by one of her fellow colleagues, ridiculed by the others, Marla refuses to go on stage and perform before she looks more Japanese than ever before.
The main theme of this short film is, therefore, the strive for perfection, or, even more accurately, flirting with the impossible. The idea is simple and straightforward: discouraged by the girls mocking her, and by the revelation she has- that no amount or colour of makeup will make her look the way she wants to- she takes drastic actions to come as close as physically possible- slashing her eyelids. The act is a desperate, irreversible one, done in a moment of frustration when acknowledging that all else had failed. Marla gives no thought to the potentially negative consequences such an action could cave on her career at the club, how it could increase the amount of ridicule she has to put up with. She is hell-bent on a quick and efficient fix, that would make her walk with renewed confidence towards the stage. The actress portraying Marla does a decent job of portraying her emotions: disappointment, hope, annoyance, desperation, and relentless conviction. She does not excel, but is believable enough.
For a student film, the cinematography is passable- some more inspired frames, as well as better editing techniques would have been value adding. An interesting aspect is the fact that most of the film is shot in the mirror which Marla uses to become someone she’s not. Thus, the mirror acts like a symbol, as separating medium between the real Marla and the desired Marla. The act of smashing the mirror disfigures her reflection, just as she disfigures herself by slashing her eyelids. The projection in the mirror remains a projection of her deepest wishes, as no fix will actually bring her closer to the impossible goal she has set to achieve.
In the end, ‘Faa Ihelhe’, despite its shortcomings and simplicity, manages to send its message in a thoughtful manner. As director Daniel Michalos puts it, the film showcases both good and evil. Bearing the title of a famous Paul Gaugain painting depicting his personal paradise, a picture of a society whose members are living in perfect harmony with one another, it perfectly captures Marla’s deeply rooted fantasy. The parallel is interesting, though disjointed. The feeling that she can’t fully integrate and be accepted by all pushes her to extreme reactions, and shows the negative outcomes of overdetermination.