Directed and Written by #IsadoraVeríssimo
Short Film Review by Jack Bottomley
I’ll hold my hands up and say that it took me more than one viewing to fully appreciate writer/director/editor Isadora Veríssimo’s sci-fi tinged drama short Ha.Na. Sometimes films lay all their cards on the table and you know precisely where you are heading, with Ha.Na however there is a compelling complexity at work that takes a basic idea of AI and insightfully questions the emotional struggles of it. It would be a kind of spoiler to go too much into it, so lets say that the film focuses on the confused and reserved young woman Hanna (#ChristinMuuli) who struggles to find her identity through the flashes of her master’s past and the brief glimpses she has of life beyond the gates of her home’s garden.
Some may lose patience with this film and its dream-like approaches, as all the pieces are not laid out for you and there are many things left to think about afterward. However, Ha.Na is an exercise in understatedness, taking its very sci-fi ideal and deconstructing it on an emotional level, addressing issues of identity, overwhelming emotions and the purpose behind existence. Veríssimo’s direction is careful and thought-provoking, sometimes lingering on what seems merely of aesthetic value but later comes to add to the film’s slowly developing themes.
Occasionally carrying an edge of a Blade Runner or Prometheus-esque questioning of artificial feeling, creation and identity, the film also feels very grounded in realism, never tipping over into audacious effects-driven spectacle, though Tina Tran’s superb cinematography and the film’s brilliant lighting ensure there are some truly standout visual sequences within.
As Hanna, Christin Muuli is great. She captures an innocent sense of being an onlooker in this world and her own story, learning how to act and who she is by observing the limited glimpses she is allowed of the passing world around her. Her story begins to add up and eventually she has a breakout moment of realisation. The supporting cast don’t get as much chance to develop but #PeterMoffatt as Ezra (“Hanna’s master”) does fill in some of the backstory, which comes from a poignant place. Meanwhile #MackBates’ Shia is important to Hanna’s eventual emotional emancipation.
Ha.Na looks very cinematic and the camerawork is stunning, while the select musical accompaniments throughout strike the right chords and help give the film an almost otherworldly feeling, which appropriately puts us right alongside the movie’s curious but quiet protagonist. As Ha.Na plays out you are never less than intrigued by it and are very involved with uncovering Hanna’s story and identity, as much as she is herself.
This really is an impressive piece of storytelling that may have some areas that feel a bit greyer than others but - upon rewatching especially - you find yourself drawn even further into this brief but impressively high-aiming short and the almost overpowering and personal world of its title character.
Much recommended, especially for those who prefer their Sci-fi infused stories with more of a thoughtful and humane soul. Well acted, well shot and very well directed.