Written and Directed by Fred Cavender
Starring Roxane Brumachon, Mark Denieffe
Short Film Review by Hannah Sayer
Douleurless was made as part of “Le Projet Téléphone”, a cross cultural and cross genre project involving French and international artists. In September 2017, a proverb was picked at random and given to the first artist as a point of inspiration. That artist had two weeks to create something within their artistic genre before passing their work along to the next artist. Seven months later, artists from nine different countries and ten different art forms have participated. Before Douleurless there was a monologue, a dance, a drawing, music and a costume, yet even without this context Douleurless still stands on its own as a sci-fi short film with an intriguing yet unsettling concept.
The film follows a couple, played by Roxane Brumachon and Mark Denieffe, who are waiting for their appointment in an advanced genetics clinic. The film opens with a news broadcast playing in the waiting room which shows reports of the riots against the clinic and its role within the future of humanity. The woman is pregnant and they are at the clinic for an unknown procedure which will mean that their child will become a “New World” child. The woman calls the people rioting against the genetics clinic “terrorists” who are “fighting against our future. Our evolution!”. However, the man has an opposing view to his partner as he argues for what the people rioting believe in. She is invested in the procedure they are waiting to have done but he is against it. Mentions of child sacrifice, mutilation and inhumanity reveal the unsettling extent to this future world but Cavender allows for mystery and intrigue to prevail by not revealing too much about this clinic and the broader context within the film’s short six minute running time.
As well as writing and directing the film, Cavender shot, edited and mixed Douleurless too which is impressive. Roxane Brumachon and Mark Denieffe are brilliant in their roles, with the man speaking in English and the woman in French which is an interesting addition to the film. “Douleur” translated from French means pain/ache, which suggests that Douleurless as a title can be translated to mean “painless” when combining the French and the English words. This is another way the two languages are used together within Douleurless. The film being set in a waiting room which is often associated with anxiousness and anticipation adds to the intensity of the short.
This exploration of two opposing viewpoints causing tension and leading to an eventual clashing of opinions is extremely well-directed and acted. The great ending is memorable and reinforces that this short film is an accomplished look at an imagined future where this mysterious genetic treatment has become the norm.