Written and Directed by Darren A. Furniss
Produced/Edited by Darren A. Furniss and David Furniss
Starring Sarah Kelly, Liam Gregory, Sophie Olley, Kyle Futers, Rachel Page, and Dean Fisher
Indie Film Review by Euan Franklin
When a film fades in with a quote from Nietzsche, you know you’re in for a depressing ride. However, no amount of mental preparation is enough for this draining debut by American playwright Darren A. Furniss. Through six tales of transgression and torment, Damaged plunges down a deep well of despair – pulling us away from the light and into the shadows.
Alice is a young woman who has a brief affair with another man. Dave, Alice’s boyfriend, is addicted to intercourse and adultery. Kayleigh is an impressionable teenager turned model turned porn star turned church-worker. Christian, a twenty year-old virgin who becomes infatuated with his sister. Melissa sleeps her way to the top of a major company. Frank is agitated at his shop manager.
With intense descriptions of murder, rape, and incest, this film exhausts you before realising only half-an-hour has passed.
In storytelling, there is a sacrosanct dogma: show me, don’t tell me. Damaged breaks this rule incessantly, wearing the mask of aesthetic purpose, but lacking the talent and budget to achieve it. This is less a feature film, more an anthology of short films treated like the latest binge-watch series on Netflix. Furniss wants us to keep watching each story, pursuing them, digesting them, until we find a philosophical meaning for ourselves. Instead, a state of apathy pours through our Being. Damaged introduces us to a superfluous number of characters and our empathy dissipates as we pursue each story.
The stories themselves are well told and the characters are believable but there’s no progression and no sense of change. This is why the graphic voiceovers become interminable after a while, in spite of their eloquence. This film doesn’t encourage you to watch more - it motivates you to shut the laptop.
The stories of Alice and Dave are absorbing because of their inconsistencies and unreliable narrations, reminding one of Bret Easton Ellis’s excellent transgressive novel The Rules of Attraction. However, we are ripped away from this promising device and taken to three other characters – related only by theme. If Furniss couldn’t be pushed to kill his darlings, then he should’ve bridged greater connections between the characters. In spite of this, the acting in the film is commendable considering the film’s dubious style and difficult subject-matter. This is rare for an amateur production.
Furniss relies heavily on bloated voiceovers and glum gestures, like a cheap version of a Terrence Malick film. This is reflected in the cinematography, which does elevate the film at times. Its style is ambitious to imitate the trademark Malick-Lubezki floating steadicam shots – most prevalent in the last ten minutes of Damaged. The goal is admirable, but falls short when you realise neither Furniss brother understands how to achieve the same effect with a basic camera. The interior cinematography is far superior to the exteriors, the former benefitting from a greater control of lighting and colour within a studio environment. Daniel and David Furniss create images that stir the soul, but these become undermined by gaps in their knowledge and experience.
Damaged attempts to be profound and philosophical, but is crippled by its infatuation with theme and interpretation. The aesthetic intentions are unclear and there’s no motivation to uncover them - making it more in common with a charity appeal than a narrative feature.
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