'Bedsheets & Cigarettes'
- Directed by Alan Mehanna -
A static picture of a couple making love beneath the bedsheets. When the session is over, the two smile at each other and look happy. The man finds a packet of cigarettes, and lights one – it is probably routine that he has a smoke after just having had sex. However, it is exactly this cycle of routine that triggers a deep emotion in his mind, and spurs him to make an out-of-the-blue, definitive statement: their relationship is over.
What ensues is a series of conversations between the two lovers, as they try to come to terms with the current situation and make sense of what they should be doing next. A series of jump cuts and J cuts fragment these conversations almost into small sketches of their own, each with a different angle and unfolding action. This is interesting as a stylistic choice, but fails to bring much value added to the project as a whole. What is more interesting, however, is how in many of these scenes, the couple still manifest themselves in physically romantic ways towards each other – this is later revealed to be because of the strained relationship they have endured over the last years, with moments perhaps much more threatening towards their bond than the statement just uttered by the man.
The biggest flaw of ‘Bedsheets and Cigarettes’, however, is its content and delivery. Shot in a single room, its static nature ensures that the theme is very character-centric and dialogue-based. Unfortunately, it is exactly here that the project suffers: the dialogues are mediocre at best, and contains pretty much what you’d expect to be said in a couple’s argument. The two actors fail to convey the emotions which they should be going through; actually, they don’t seem convinced themselves. A well-written script that highlights the particularity of the array of emotions of the characters involved, and actors who can translate these into a believable performance, are paramount to the success of such a film, and ‘Bedsheets and Cigarettes’ lacks both of these.
Furthermore, getting back to style and direction, Alan Mehanna chose a very raw, low-quality filming technique which has the merit of feeling almost like an intrusive peak at their argument, and as said before, a fragmented one. This works well, but the external perspective doesn’t exactly blend well with the internally-generated flashbacks of the man’s other lover, thus losing points for consistency and cohesiveness. On the other hand, sound mixing works well, and the minimalistic soundtrack does its job of highlighting the drama in a few key points very well, while otherwise letting the overall conversation run its course.
Overall, ‘Bedsheets and Cigarettes’ is a decent project which showcases a large number of good ideas that could work out together even better with further refinement and a few different stylistic choices. Most important, the set of premises presented need a sort of overarching message in order to feel relevant – not a different ending, but a slightly improved finality context. A few adjustments would see this project fare much better.