'WHO BROUGHT THE COATSTAND?'
- Directed by Matthew Simmonds -
This conceptual short depicts a meeting between an informant and an intelligence agent, each of them guarding their own principles.
We identified this film as conceptual video art because the illustration of ideas takes precedence over aesthetic and technical or material aspects. The characters share a brief change of lines, each of them motivating their choices with their own set of beliefs. The décor consists of a standcoat and a chair, the rest of the setting is left to the imagination of the viewer.
The plot is linear: a non-British informant has an important document for a British Intelligence agent. The agent is elegant, polished and a bit arrogant, the other man is dressed casually and talks humbly, but makes his point. The informant is wondering about the moral conduct of the agent, while the agent avoids being personal and talks about the purpose and nature of politics. Their subject is an “inflammatory” letter that the informant is not happy to give away.
The coatstander seems to be a symbol of conformity and the informant doesn’t want to hang his coat because that would mean becoming comfortable in a hostile place. He prefers to keep a liberating distance between him and the agent, to stand his grounds as he defends his beliefs.
While the topics debated are pretty clear, the dialogue is not relevant in demonstrating any premise, it is just a flow of fancy-phrased ideas regarding political viewpoints. The arguments are underdeveloped and what was supposed to be an intriguing piece of video art leaves the viewer quite unimpressed. The actors don’t have much chemistry either and they seem to feel the absence of a setting and of a more meaningful text, as their performance is flat and unconvincing. And while we get the idea of a conceptualized film, the poor quality sound makes this piece very hard to follow, as the viewer can hardly hear what the informant says. The constant noise is another disturbing element which could have been easily removed by following basic filmmaking post-production steps like sound cleaning.
All things considered, “Who Brought The Coatstand?” is a conceptual film with an underdeveloped thesis.