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Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Contact (2009)

Director: Anders Øvergaard
Stars: Ferdinand Falsen Hiis and Lotte Sandbu
This film was an official selection at the 6th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Tempe in 2010. Here's an index to my reviews of 2010 films.

The sky is clear and Martin is out in the Norwegian forest looking for aliens. It has to be a pretty lonely existence for a young man, even more than your average trainspotter given that at least those guys have trains to look at. What are the odds that Martin's going to see a bunch of aliens? Well, in a science fiction short called Contact, he's going to have a pretty good chance and it turns out to be a well shot, well written little film. It doesn't have a huge amount to say in the twenty minutes it has to run but it says it well, being not just a science fiction story about aliens but also a drama about humans, the other one being a young lady by the name of Lene. Aiming for Jonas's party, she ends up at Martin's tent, lost in the forest. They know each other at first sight and he quickly hides all his notes and drawings before she sees them. She still knows why he's there though, even though she hasn't seen him for four years, so it's hardly a new obsession.
Naturally this is the moment that a ball of light chooses to pass overhead and find its way into an old abandoned house in the woods. What follows is cleverly done, with admirable subtlety given to the story, the acting and the camerawork, but best of all is the lighting which highlights just how well this is shot, given that it mostly unfolds inside a building without the benefit of much light. If there's one thing that identifies an amateur film over anything else, it's scenes shot in low light. They seem to be the hardest thing for inexperienced filmmakers to get right and so such scenes usually end up muddy, too dark or with that annoying grey static tone everywhere. While part of it is inevitably due to the technology used, many amateurs not having access to the Red One that Anders Øvergaard had to play with here, most of it is filmmakers not knowing their limitations. It's obvious that Øvergaard is well past such limitations because this film looks great.
He's had plenty of practice given that the film bug bit him when he borrowed his dad's camcorder at the age of twelve and he hasn't looked back since. For this film, he didn't just write and direct, he also edited the film, designed the sound and created the special effects. While actors Ferdinand Falsen Hiis and Lotte Sandbu successfully avoid stereotypes with their performances, it's entirely Øvergaard's picture and he makes the most of his dream of making a science fiction movie. To be honest, it isn't as a science fiction (or at least a sci-fi) movie that it succeeds for me, as the simple story is an Androcles and the Lion parable that tells more about the youngsters than the aliens. It's the style of the film that succeeded for me, that lighting superbly helping to build suspense by revealing the film's secrets only during camera flashes or by illuminated alien eyes. Contact, or Kontakt in the original Norwegian, is impressive and I hope Øvergaard returns to the genre.

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