An Approximation of their Barbarous Manners short film review

★★★★★

Directed by: #ChristianSerritiello

Written by: #ChristianSerritiello

Starring: #BruceGlover, #DulcieSmart, #ScottCoffey

Film Review by: Patrick Foley


Most of us get frustrated when people aren’t where they are supposed to be. We’ve all tutted to ourselves when our Morrison’s order has been half an hour late, or when a taxi you’ve ordered is nowhere to be found. Usually, the most dramatic action one takes is to write a strongly worded-email. But as An Approximation of Their Barbarous Manners shows, those in the film industry has a habit of taking things to another level.


A filmset in North Africa is abuzz with anticipation for the arrival of decorated movie legend Bruce Glover (himself). But when Glover no-shows, the set goes into meltdown – causing the highly-strung director (Bruce Woolley) to demand a search party and the egomaniacal cast to come up with their own coping mechanisms as an uncertain chaos descends around them.


An Approximation of Their Barbarous Manners is a short experimental film dramatizing the chaos on a film set, and how artistes lose all sense of control when confronted with an unforeseen setback. The reactions across the crew vary from disturbing to hilarious, with the director launching into a maniacal tirade against his subordinates as he tries to locate his star, whilst actors throw tantrums as they realise the man they signed up to work alongside is nowhere to be found – with one resorting to mimicking his spirit animals for comfort. There is a certain disdain for these types of personalities that resonates from the film – with director Christian Serritiello making clear that overly pretentious actors and precious directors should be the subject of our derision.


The film is stylish, with a black-and-white arthouse presentation which feels self-referential as it is easy to imagine the director in the film presenting his own movie in exactly the same way. Chaos is well-demonstrated as Glover’s no-show becomes obvious, with frantic cuts and rushing action shots which try to keep up with the worry that has infected the cast. The close-ups of the director as the last remnants of his sanity fall away are reminiscent of horror films, and are a memorable and darkly comic way to demonstrate how over-the-top and toxic his psychotic reaction is.


Bruce Glover’s physical absence in the film is impressively offset by his overarching impact on the rest of the cast and crew. His initial audition video, and a subsequent telephone call open the film. From then on, despite his notable absence, his is the name on everyone’s lips. Without even being present, he seems to be manipulating events mischievously as the film falls apart. Of course, the real gag is that most casual viewers will have little idea who the 87-year-old character actor – and actor’s actor – is at all, and why these uptight performers are losing their minds over him not being there.


The ensemble cast are largely excellent, with a variety of Hollywood archetypes on display. Bruce Woolley’s control-freak director dominates the set and is brilliantly unsympathetic as he causes more problems than solves. Scott Coffey’s meerkat-impersonating James and Daniel Brunet’s Jeremy – who treats Glover’s absence as a personal affront - are hilarious examples of actors living within their own world. Perhaps deliberately, Gloria (Dulcie Smart) and Anjelica (Kristen Bush), the women in the piece, handle the setback much more sensibly – surely a comment on the macho-culture often found on film sets.


A wry and dry exploration of the oddball and pressurised minds of film crews, An Approximation… skewers the pretentiousness of so many auteur filmmakers – both with its educated takedown of their behaviour and by producing a film in the artistic style better than many could accomplish themselves.