An Alternative Method (2020) Short Film Review

★★★★


Directed by: #HannahSchierbeek

Written by: #HannahSchierbeek

Starring: #MarianaCastro, #LauraDifiglo, #NickBernardi


Short Film Review by: Emily Davison

A ballet dancer copes with her fears manifesting into dreams and reality by confiding in her neighbour in this dreamy, unconventional short.


An Alternative Method (2020) is directed by Chicago based indie filmmaker and producer Hannah Schierbeek, whose Vimeo page presents several of her shorts and music videos. Her film is scheduled to screen as part of the BFI Future Film Festival this month.

A medium shot of ballet dancer teaching her class, with name of the film in the middle and credits at bottom
An Alternative Method (2020) Short Film screenshot

One of the most notable qualities of the short is its captivating cinematography and rustic, retro aesthetic charm. The film is presented in a smaller aspect ratio, with a slight grain to the image and there are a few instances where a colourful lens flare is featured to compliment the soft, warm pastel colours onscreen. The film has a beautiful nostalgic element to its visual presentation, with moments of shaky handheld camera during the ballet class scenes adding to the homemade movie style and further enhancing the surreal presence of the short. The warm colours are inviting and although the frame is small, it ironically envelops you into the world of the ballet teacher and is engaging throughout.


Mariana Castro as the lead delivers a strong performance as the enigmatic ballet teacher who appears to be trapped inside her own mind, struggling to differentiate between dreams and reality. She seems most stable in her studio with her students, but there is always an eerie perplexion to her persona which is enthralling to watch as her anxiety often consumes her in small bouts of emotion. Her co-stars, Laura Difiglo as the neighbour and Nick Bernarn as the man we are led to believe is stalking the protagonist, both have very short segments but perform their parts respectively with Difiglo embodying the concerned yet supportive neighbour and Bernarn offering an intimidating shadowy presence over Castro.


The film’s dreamlike tone is supported by a simple, effective score by Henry Hawkes and strong sound design. There is a repetitive piano motif that plays throughout, which is rhythmic and compelling, with an accompanying broody, reflective ambient piece complimenting the visuals well. The ballet teacher often hears voices and whispers in her head, which comes to refer to the children she teaches, but also appears to embody her anxiety about being followed one day by a stranger and these illusive moments also emphasise the surreal qualities of the narrative.


An Alternative Method is an enrapturing short film with a simple premise, but an impactful visual aesthetic and well realised ethereal quality which make for satisfying, compelling viewing.

#EmilyDavison


An Alternative Method screens as part of the BFI Future Film Festival from 18-21 February, free on BFI Player:

https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-an-alternative-method-2020-online