Directed by Manos Ioannou Starring Jonathon Kemp, Sidney Dean, Jasmine Joans
Short Film Review by Andrew Moore
An official selection for the 2016 London Short Film Festival, Manos Ioannou’s film Dilip’s Castle is a twisted and nefarious film, in which we witness the dry and detached central character Sidney (Jonathon Kemp) discover what lies under the suburban, metropolitan veneer when he decides to peer behind a darker veil. Spiralling deliberately into a booze induced haze after his wife’s infidelity we witness Sidney being rebuked by a girl in a bar after stumping up (as he begrudgingly notes) the cost of a few drinks. She goes back over to her boyfriend and Sidney (cut to later that evening) gets a whack on the nose for his troubles as we see him checking his plaster in an off licence security mirror (it’s going to be one of those nights)! This incidentally is where Sidney meets Dilip (Sidney Dean) who’s haranguing the shopkeeper to let him owe the price of his shopping bag until another time. Sidney, whilst buying his own ‘top ups’ for his continuing evening of obliterating descent, kindly offers to pay for Dilip’s shopping, and so their jovial banter thus ensues. Dilip invites Sydney over to his place and the scene is consequentially set as we follow the pair in conversation down the road.
Anyone who’s had a reasonably active social life in London (and I’d assume that’s most of us) will recount many a time we’ve ended up at some kind of ‘after party’ populated by certain characters who only seem to inhabit this secret otherworld, ones that exist in dimly lit, smoke infused rooms behind the drawn curtains of perfectly normal looking suburban backstreets. Well then, inside Dilip’s place Sidney meets two of his friends with a joint on the go, and later Sarah (Jasmine Joans) whom Sydney very nearly hooks up with (after he initially collapses in the upstairs bathroom suffering from a strong hit on the homemade bong downstairs). Alas, after failing to perform with Sarah, Sidney decamps off for more booze to baluster a second attempt! En route he discovers the property’s true owners, bound and gagged. And so the twist here is that Dilip and his cohorts choose to inhabit/takeover other people’s suburban idylls and you’re certainly given the impression this is an ongoing lifestyle of theirs and not a one off. There are of course hints at underhand things afoot initially, the strange dialogue delivered by Dilip regarding house fires and the smell of human bacon ending with him stating “who’s to say you’re not food for me” while Sydney of course comments on Dilip’s ‘big place’ as they enter (strange considering he can’t afford his own shopping) and even upon entering he’s jumbling unnaturally with the keys (and why’s there all that bleach?). Of course this is the point; we’re supposed to notice this, slowly cranking up the sense of disquieting unease.
Right from start the film’s underlying sense of the intrigue has been perfectly captured by Alex Grigoras’ acutely observed cinematography; from the dimly lit bar to the scenes in the house, you feel that the camera is following the night’s events as much as witnessing them, which really allows the viewer to saddle up to the intrigue in Dilip’s Castle – you’re very much along for the ride! That said, this would be nothing without believable acting and here it’s professional and accomplished with Jonathon Kemp’s wry laconic delivery of his lines against Sidney Dean’s friendly camaraderie but with its manipulatively sinister Mansonesque undercurrents; in his last scene, Dilip unnervingly drops his amicable Irish accent for a more abrasive London one (the mask is of)! This is augmented by a decent script with dialogue that’s completely believable, on the nail and feels natural within the parameters of the scenes. Technically speaking none of Manos Ioannou’s film would look out of place in a full feature.
There’s an argument that Sidney’s bolshie ironic ‘I’m climbing into a dark hole because I bloody want to’ nature subconsciously seeks out Dilip who points out in their parting scene (whilst Sidney’s handcuffed to a bed) that his little dramas don’t matter because “not everything is about Sidney!” The nature of a good film short is the questions it throws out into the abyss, what it asks the viewer of its characters beyond its short filmic life, this film succeeds on every level in that sense. As of its potential to become a full feature, by keeping Sidney’s dry sense of disdain juxtaposed against Dilip’s darker, philosophical knife tearing through petty suburban concerns I’d consider it sitting closer to something like Danny Boyle’s 1994 film Shallow Grave (as opposed to going in the direction of something bleaker and solely nihilistic like Mike Leigh’s 1993 film Naked). Of course, in the emerging daylight Sidney does get to return home (minus trousers), closing his door upon the night’s events and us the viewer, and yet considering his original wish when we first met him to avoid this maybe I’d secretly hoped that Sidney had stayed with Dilip in one of his many castles after all, now that’d be fun to watch!