'The Singing Bones'
- Directed by Danishka Esterhazy -
The charm of folk fairy tales usually works twofold. First, there’s a distinct, mystical allure about the setting which makes it stand out. Secondly, most of the time, the mains themes and stay surprisingly fresh and fit in within a modern context just as well. This is what award-winning director Danishka Esterhazy’s ‘The Singing Bones’ does: it draws inspiration from a variety of classic folktales such as ‘Bluebeard’ and the Grimm Brothers’ ‘The Singing Bone’, as well as a more recent volume of short stories by Francesca Lia Block.
The 10-minute short film’s story arch closely resembles the rough framework of Bluebeard. A young girl finds herself attending the party of a mysterious and wealthy man, who invites her to stay over even when all the other guests had taken their leave. Despite a number of question marks subtly raised along the way, the two thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, but the new day reveals a dark secret of the man, to which the girl can either succumb, or fight against.
The great thing about this production, apart from its modern yet still timeless setting, is how is basically develops around two types of darkness. One is found deep within the girl’s being – she is lonely, confused and purposeless, merely wandering around aimlessly and melding her being to whatever it is that might come. The other one is encompassed by the man’s dark secret, metaphorically symbolized by the key, and later openly revealed to the audience. In the bleak world of this film, darkness can only be fought with darkness, and thus the girl’s ability to sense it and counteract grants her the potential to be the norm breaker.
Stylistically, ‘The Singing Bones’ is beautifully developed, with a cinematography style that fits the setting like a glove, and a score which strikes the perfect balance between the mystery of a folktale and a modern touch. No dialogues are needed in order to punctuate the plot, the author instead going for a narrative monologue which works very well.
The film is not without its flaws, however. The main character is intentionally a very distant, unaffected type of person, and yet the performance of the actress interpreting her role could have been slightly better. Additionally, while the presentation style is wonderful, the plot’s skeleton is quite generic, and the ending seems very predictable and unoriginal – more consideration could have perhaps been given here for a personal twist.
All in all, however, ‘The Singing Bones’ is a very good film. Drawing on a number of dark stories, its own bleakness has a lot of personality and strikes a good balance between its comprising elements. The excellent visual style and beautifully shot imagery, alongside its almost neo-noir-ish narrative style make it a great project, which however stops just short of being a remarkable one.