'WHAT WAS HE LIKE?'
- Directed by Christian Wenger -
This short film is trying to shine a light on themes like loss, loneliness, and isolation.
In an elegant house with British bourgeois century-old look, an old mysterious lady dressed in a fashion is relaxing in an armchair close to a stiff man. In the gloomy room where even at midday just a few beams of light pass the heavy curtains, classical music is played on a pick-up for the two characters. The enigmatic, but serene atmosphere is changed by the man’s questions, leading the audience to find out he is not sure about his role in her life. By the end, the viewer realises that the man is possibly a cyborg or an electronic device resembling the woman’s deceased husband.
Like in William’s Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily”, the protagonist, Christine, refuses to let go of her life partner. Christine chooses to share her solitude with an animated corpse rather than reaching the outside world. This is a heavily tackled theme nowadays, when loneliness ranks among the most concerning issues of modern society.
Though the film doesn’t have a very complex plot, it is certainly thought-provoking because of its brusque resolution and its bizarre setting. The mix of period drama costumes, futurist elements, and suspenseful atmosphere make “Christine” a French Fantastique genre short.
What keeps the audience engaged is the atmosphere are the dark color palette, the stillness of the characters, the dramatic lighting, the melancholic soundtrack. Also, the shooting angles give the illusion of a constant watcher, maintaining the audience’s feeling of angst.
Christine is elegant and dreamy but always keeps an eye on the surroundings. The actress managed to convey the alienation of the protagonist and by her ability to show a calm, but an oppressive presence, a memorable character is born.
The storyline is clear, so the starting and ending voice-over serves no real purpose. The dialogues have a strange accent and aren’t very well mixed with the soundtrack or the ambient noise, a detail that distances the spectator. Another issue is the set design, as many elements of the home don’t exactly fit together and while this isn’t a period drama, the modern flooring and pick-up are obvious mismatches with the other elements.
All things considered, this makes an interesting genre piece that stands out through its quirky protagonist and occult atmosphere.