Written and Directed by Nic Nassuet
Starring Anna Lee, Robert R. Ryel, David Nassau, Charles Claymore, Wolf Ramsey
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Experimental short film CHRYSALIS, from writer director Nic Nassuet, explores a myriad of existential ideas such as life, death, rebirth, society and religion using a visually vibrant landscape and chilling abstract characters. The result is a thought provoking piece that offers audiences undiluted artistry without a conventional narrative.
Anna Lee plays the central role known as Soldier/Initiate who experiences a transformation at the hands of three "ruffians" (Robert R. Ryel, David Nassau, and Charles Claymore), whilst roaming the picturesque tombs of the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. After a violent sequence, she gives birth (or is reborn) to another Child/Initiate (Wolf Ramsey) who starts on their own journey through the labyrinthine tombs and religious paraphernalia.
As with so many experimental short films, numerous viewings of CHRYSALIS are recommended in order to garner some semblance of cohesion and to pick up on the smaller details and nuances. Nassuet utilises a marvellous colour palette to elicit strong emotions in every frame of his movie. A sequence where all the masked ruffian heads fade in and out of an Eastern painting is particularly compelling. There are several other moments where religious connections are made and severed, creating a tonally harsh environment for the viewer. These get mixed in with the transmutation of Anna Lee's character for a wholly head-scratching but interesting viewing.
The locations are fabulous. Using such peculiar and arresting backgrounds is just one way that the filmmaker delivers above the usual standard of arthouse short films. Typically experimental cinema with a short running time can often venture too far into the abstract category but CHRYSALIS has just enough meat on its bones when it comes to themes and allegory that you come away from it enriched by the experience rather than too baffled.
This film was part of a Veterans Make Movies project set up by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Nassuet, whilst being a veteran, also made his movie on a shoestring budget of $200. This is an impressive feat when taking into account the eclectic array of striking visuals he manages to pack into the sub six minute running time! It also makes the ideas in his film all the more poignant if you start to connect the dots between the visceral themes of the short.
Packed with visual punch and intelligent themes, CHRYSALIS, amongst other possible readings, is a brutal yet beautiful journey into one's ability to significantly transform in order to fit back into society.