Before Passing, Polish-Australian director Bianca Lucas’s debut short, showcases a highly measured – almost stately – command of the medium: the sure sign of someone who knows their film lineage and exactly what stamp they are intending to make with their work. Unsurprisingly, as a graduate of the great Béla Tarr’s own filmmaking school in Sarajevo (although this film was made before her stint there), Lucas already bears the signature of European arthouse and ‘slow’ cinema: a very painterly eye, and an intent to tell her story through the full properties of the medium, including sound – the oft overlooked piece of film artillery.
With Before Passing, Lucas makes the wise decision not to cram in too much narrative, while still creating enough of a hook through sense of place and characterisation to ward against accusations the work is mere film school window dressing. Lucas’s use of a monochrome palette is entirely justified through her employment of a McGuffin about a full ‘lunar passing’ to frame the narrative. This ethereal subject matter suits Lucas’s black-and-white photography (captured beautifully by director of photography, Wojciech Rytel), and is justified in the film’s pièce de résistance – a stark pull back from the moon in eclipse (revealed to be a mere framed photograph) to young girl Maria’s solemn, mirror-like image in reflection.
Another delight from the film is Lucas’s eye for the potential in the wintry Polish locale. Indeed the work uncannily anticipates Pawel Pawlikowski’s own Polish tale, Ida (2013), and the hauntingly pale glow Emmanuel Lubezki was able to affect over Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant (2015).
European cinema isn’t short of young, accomplished arthouse filmmakers – but the prospect of a Bianca Lucas film pitching up at a festival in the not-too-distant future wouldn’t surprise this observer judging by the polished evidence we have here.
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CAST: Natalia Powada, Sylwana Skarzynska-Rutledge, Zbigniew Swat
DIRECTOR: Bianca Lucas
WRITER: Bianca Lucas
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Wojciech Rytel
EDITOR: Wojciech Janas
SYNOPSIS: Deep in Poland’s wintry countryside, Maria (Natalia Powada) seeks out the company of the local ‘lunatic’, on the cusp of a ‘Lunar Passing’.