Directed By Ziyad Saadi Starring Andre Herzegovitch, Karah Serine, Sarah O’Sullivan and Nileja James Short Film Review by Michael Fiott
Hello, My Name is Death takes us through a gamut of feelings throughout its short runtime; fear, intrigue, a slight tinge of uneasiness and most notably confusion. It begins in a dark room with a bemused man (Andre Herzegovitch) sat on a chair, he is then approached by...well...Death itself and is informed that he has been shot between the eyes by either of the two women who stand by his side. He is then informed by Death (Nileja James) that he must figure out which of the two shot him in order to save himself from death.
What follows is a series of cryptic sequences where it is obvious that the vision of director Ziyad Saadi was not to give us the answer, but to simply let us figure it out exactly like our protagonist. This is an interesting choice from Ziyad as it provides a challenge and takes multiple watches to begin to even catch a glimpse of the real outcome.
One major thing to appreciate about this, is that it doesn’t take the safe route of normal storytelling, Ziyad uses almost clockwork editing and repetition that dictates it’s slow pace, using this technique does genuinely let the film simmer in your mind and ultimately leaves us questioning what we have witnessed.
The repetition I mentioned takes its form in a number of different ways other than its editing, with the recurring lines like “Smile, it’s a beautiful day” and the subtly alarming soundtrack which is reminiscent of an angry and slow alarm clock.
There is also a very dark and almost seedy undertone to the short film with its use of profanity and suggestion of incest, a dark feeling that is doubled by its surroundings, as a minimal amount of locations are used. We see our characters in the dark room and we see our protagonist on a street with a melancholy expression on his face. Only seeing two varied locations began to make me feel claustrophobic, again an obviously intentional choice.
This claustrophobia is also delivered to us with unrelenting close up shots that emphasise every movement of the performers' faces, which range from bewildering to downright creepy. Especially from actress Karah Serine whose sterile and unrelenting smile is unsettling to say the least.
When all of these elements collide together we are left with a piece that borders on being arthouse, the only thing that separates it from fitting this category is the relatively plain and ordinary look of the film, there were no particular shots that were a treat to the eye as we would see in more artistic pieces.
Although I have listed many positives that the film obviously has, it ultimately provides us with a challenge but leaves us contemplating its overall plot and message, because of this it made me wish I was watching Ziyad’s vision applied to a different plot.