Directed by: #SheikhShahnawaz
10 minutes is a limited time frame for a film that is both coherent and aesthetically pleasing. The opening titles for some films can last that long; so the discipline shown by Sheikh Shahnawaz in short film Duality has to be admired.
In five scenes he plots the engaging story of Vanessa (Sharni Tapako-Brown), who is trapped in an abusive relationship with Simon (Nisaro Karim). A beautifully shot piece opens on a wedding ringed hand; a symbol of love and commitment for Vanessa. But where Simon is concerned it merely represents control and possession.
Following a brutal sexual encounter Vanessa is left in tears. Then a voice calls out; her alter ego has come to visit her. This is not so much Vanessa’s alternative personality cutting loose but her logical self, asking pertinent questions about her life with Simon: is she truly happy with him?
Vanessa struggles with her logical self, knowing deep down how much sense she is beginning to make. More importantly, she sees her true self; the person she wants to be; a confident and assertive woman in control. Simon has stripped away her independence and is little more than a needy domestic drudge. She finally makes a decision as the film reaches an appropriate conclusion.
Shahnawaz cleverly uses neutral lighting and a discreet soundtrack to slowly build the tension. The script is sparse but well judged, using some memorable images to drive the narrative. Verbal exchanges between Vanessa and her logical self always stand out, as she finally succumbs to reality. For such a short piece, the editing is surprisingly smooth with an almost effortless transition between scenes. Both actors lend authenticity to the story and are totally convincing in their respective roles. Nisaro Karim maintains a sound presence as abusive husband Simon. However, Sharni Tapako-Brown is a telegenic female lead, and takes the cigar effectively playing two roles.
If Duality does have a weakness it lay in the portrayal of well-trodden subject matter. We know instinctively where the story is heading, offering little in the way of insight or originality of thought. However, the real skill here is economy of effort. Sheikh Shahnawaz has presented a self-contained story in 10 minutes that some directors might take an hour to achieve; but the dramatic impact is no less compelling in a shorter format. With a growing portfolio of films, I sense a blossoming talent on whom we should keep a very close eye.