Directed by: #PhilipBrocklehurst
Written by: #PhilipBrocklehurst
Philip Brocklehurst’s short film, Feel, works best when viewed as a piece of expressionist art: an exploration of one man’s (in)ability to ‘feel’ through either pleasure or pain. And while there are a few problems here which prevent the film from ever reaching its full potential, this is a terrific effort and an interesting concept.
“I want to feel” comes the utterance from P.M. Thomas’ The Unfeeling Man, who makes up the entirety of the cast. Laying naked on his bed – bathed in a blue hue – The Unfeeling Man, emotionless and desperate to feel something, attempts to...pleasure himself. However, when that fails, he resorts to more extreme measures, for when pleasure doesn’t work, perhaps pain will?
Shot using an old mini-DV camera, Feel has a grainy look and home-video feel to it. This is both a strength and a weakness. The thought behind this decision was to give the film a “raw look”, and while I do feel it achieves that, the consequence is a film where colours are muted and dull when they should be vibrant, and where detail is lost due to the darkness of the film and lower quality of the camera. Having said that, Feel does benefit from having a unique look and colour is used really well. The blue hue during the first half of the two-minute-long film reeks of desperation; while the blood-red in the second half seems to represent pain.
Overall, Brad Fletcher’s camerawork and cinematography, while simple, is sufficient enough for what the film demands, and come across as nightmarish and otherworldly. As is Thomas’ dead-eyed performance and it’s hard to not sympathise with him on some level. But it’s Stephan Ortlepp’s horror-inflected score that takes centre stage here. Dread-inducing and nerve-shredding, Ortlepp’s work employs dramatic, elongated horn-like booming as the base, then intersperses it with the grating and stabbing sound of steel; a precursor of what’s to come?
Feel is the sort of film that works so well as a short. Brocklehurst is a director who’s unafraid to take risks with his filmmaking (the knife in the movie being real is a testament to that), and he’s capable of getting the most out of the genre. Still, I do think this is a bit of hit and a miss. While individual elements are generally good, certain things just don’t work as well as they should. The editing, for example, is a little off and the darkness of the film, while moody, does cause an issue. The surreal and nightmarish atmosphere is spot-on, though, and there’s a surprising amount of emotion to be found here. It may be a hit and a miss, but this is an inspired attempt by a bold filmmaker to tell a story in a way most others wouldn’t dare—and Brocklehurst deserves credit for that.