Directed by: #JosephMorel
Opening with a close-up of the face of the actor, A Portrait immediately captures the attention of the audience with its candour and confrontational attitude. While the dialogue appears to be directly addressed to us breaking the fourth wall, it stops being a performance and becomes something close to an interaction because of the protagonist’s uninterrupted gaze straight into the camera and his continuous use of the pronoun ‘you’. The director plays with the story, dialogues are repeated like a chorus in a song, hindering our narrow one-dimensional interpretations and giving us instead multiple alternate possibilities. Could it be that the protagonist is talking to himself rather than us?
The film experiments with the narrative form and cinematic language. It encourages us to question what we are led to believe at face value. The focus is mainly on the acting and sound effects. The particular absence of any sound during the opening scene brings extra emphasis on the dialogues, creating a strange sense of tension with the grainy noise of skin against skin, as he forcefully rubs his palm against his temples. He keeps his passive aggressive nature mostly restrained but the energy is palpable just under the skin. When he starts hitting his own forehead, there is no blood involved yet the effect of such violence is psychological and far more disturbing than seeing blood on screen. During those ultimate outbursts when he kills other people, we are left with a queasy feeling in the pit of our stomach, the acting is so convincing.
In this short film, Joseph Morel takes us on an interesting journey to explore a person’s intimate thoughts and beliefs about the world around him as well as his own opinions of himself. However, as the name suggests, A Portrait also serves as a biographical reflection of the character or perhaps reflects a universal phenomenon of identity crisis. Often the character and the viewer’s identity merges together, the dividing line separating the two blends and fades away, creating confusion and philosophical doubts about the ‘self’. The movie asks questions without giving us answers, it unravels like a puzzle that becomes more and more obscure. The meaning is not important, the unraveling is.
We notice the underlying theme of self-loathing and disgust for what he has become; the character himself, helpless at the hands of his creator as if controlled by some unknown force tries to understand his actions but fails. He has lost his sense of purpose in life. He mocks the audience saying, “You think you know… but you don’t”. He is in effect, mocking himself. As viewers we constantly play a dual role, both as his audience and as a mirror against which he tries to see himself. It’s a wonderful study of the working of the human mind.