Often short films can feel gimmicky – little more than directorial calling-cards centred around singular visual conceits. Polish-Australian filmmaker Bianca Lucas, whose Before Passing was reviewed here in 2016, envisions the short film format far more ambitiously. Rather than aiming for 15 minutes of trite neatness, her short films are intriguing enigmas – tantalising her audience with rich narrative and aesthetic worlds that could easily be extended into a feature-length format.
As with Before Passing, Lucas’ impeccable formal signature is to the fore with her followup short, Bogeyman. Based loosely around a sequence of group therapy sessions, Lucas transcends the absurdist scenario of these scenes to tap into something quite unsettling. She centres on the deceitful group psychology of its members and the possible trauma afflicting main character and de facto outcast, Alan.
Alan’s outsider’s perspective is brilliantly revealed by Lucas in a precise opening scene. A fixed camera locates a gloriously deadpan group therapy session playing out (culminating in a purposely clichéd cathartic hug among its members), before the perspective cuts sharply to Alan. Lucas’ cut suddenly makes clear that what we have seen is not merely from our perspective, but Alan’s distanced, detached viewpoint – trying to make sense of the group dynamic he is about to enter.
The remainder of the film segues between other group therapy sessions and elliptical domestic impressions of Alan with the piece’s possible “Bogeyman” – his father. The cleverness of Lucas’ direction is that she does not directly reveal her hand – these could be actual examples of what has happened at home, or – more likely – Alan’s psychological configurations of his relationship with his father, under duress from the increasingly tyrannical group members.
This is one of many such ingenious scenes, and the absolute sureness of Lucas’ command of technique informing content marks her as a filmmaker on the cusp of a feature-length project.
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CAST: Amir Tatic, Emese Vasvari, Alena Dzebo
DIRECTOR: Bianca Lucas
WRITER: Bianca Lucas
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Taina Galis
EDITING: Katarzyna Spioch
SYNOPSIS: Alan (Amir Tatic) undergoes a series of increasingly intense group therapy sessions that probe at his relationship with his father.