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Thursday, 1 January 2015

Liebe (2013)

Director: Cameron Macgowan
Stars: Jesse Collin, Aadila Dosani, Chris Ferguson and Hans Grossman
This film was an official selection at the 10th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of 2014 films.
The first entry in a set of short films is tasked with grabbing the audience's attention as latecomers find their seats and rustle their popcorn annoyingly. The first entry in a set of short horror films, so frequently dark and impactful in these days of cheap but realistic special effects, also needs to put the audience at ease, enticing them into a deceptively pleasant world before letting them have it. Liebe is the epitome of this sort of film and it played very well indeed at the International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in 2014 as it opened up the first of two sets of horror shorts. It's a Canadian film, but it's narrated throughout in the German language. It's also, for a while, entirely unlike anything you might expect a horror movie to be. It initially appears to be a cheesy romance. 'I couldn't believe my eyes,' spouts the narrator, as we follow a tree down to the picnicking couple beneath it. We pan up the young lady's body as her husband emotes a paeon to his good fortune and their combined happiness.

You just know it's not going to last, right? Well, that much is clear but I really can't say any more without venturing into spoiler territory. Given that this is a four minute short that succeeds almost entirely on its twist, I have very little freedom indeed to explore what goes down. Let's merely highlight that Cameron Macgowan, the writer and director, plays up the romantic clichés as if this was a Fabio video. The young couple kiss, frolic and muse about never having to be alone again. She flounces around with flowers and eats strawberries from his fingers. He narrates with a poetic turn of phrase: 'All anger and hateful things were washed away by the river in your beautiful eyes' to the accompaniment of soft piano music clearly improvised around Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. And then... well, you'll just have to watch the picture yourself to find out what happens next. Fortunately Macgowan has uploaded it to Vimeo so that's hardly difficult to do. Suffice it to say that the twist we surely know is coming isn't quite what we might expect.

Given that the audience will react quickly, strongly and loudly to that twist (or the short won't work), the ease with which Macgowan sets the stage is almost entirely forgotten. His directorial credits are all over the map: all short films but with completely different casts in completely different genres: a dark comedy (Bad Dad), a horror western (Black Hills), a karate musical fantasy (Goodbye Moment) and a drag racing drama (Back Streets), in addition to this fairy tale comedy. The rest of the small crew are notable for how well they do their jobs without us noticing; long term collaborator Rhett Miller deserves special credit for his camerawork and editing, which are a notch above what we might expect in a twist film like this. We're never given names, but the loving couple are Bruno and Bridget, in the form of a wholesome Jesse Collin and an exotic Aadila Dosani. They never speak (the narration is by Hans Grossman, who knows German) but both of them look exactly right. While this is really all about one twist, it's also exactly right. Ich liebe!

Liebe can be watched for free at Vimeo.

1 comment:

Cameron Macgowan said...

Thank you for the insightful critique, Hal!