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Mabel - short film review



Actress Mabel (Elin-Margareta Nordin) is described as having the world at her feet because of her longstanding celebrity status. Yet, the reality shown in Elin-Margareta Nordin's eponymous short film exposes a more painful reality. In just several minutes, Nordin's film conducts an exploration into the realities of achieving stardom at a young age and how Mabel is forced to confront herself and her talents as a woman. Although presented well and maintaining a unique artistic license, this short film unfortunately lacks in some areas concerned with narrative and character development.

A blonde-haired woman, Mabel, photographed sideways on. She has a flower in her hair and looks sternly into the distance.
Mabel film poster

Mabel is ultimately clever in what it does to recreate the look and feel of a silent film. Even though it is a short film, it provides a 'look-in' to Mabel's life; we are not provided with any knowledge except for her fame and we do not know the before and after events of this short sequence. The recreation of sepia tones combined with the editing to make the footage look old and grainy is an effective modern take on early cinema that is certainly intriguing. The use of music again feels classical, reminiscent of a silent film, and begins to sound more 'tech-y' and contemporary as the film progresses. This does well to build up intensity for the end of the film, as the reality of Mabel's actions sets in for the other characters. Despite its eerie feel, the rhythm does become repetitive in parts, but this may have been the artistic intention, so as to recreate the vibe of an old film.

The focus tended to be placed more on the dialogue written on the intertitles (title cards) rather than on the acting of the characters. This unfortunately, to an extent, removes the viewer from the action. In doing this, whilst there is clarity as to what the characters are saying to each other, some attention is taken away from the facial expressions and reactions of the actors. Acting-wise, the performances given by the three on screen were great, but it was sometimes hard to gauge what their responses were to the dialogue and events. This means that, in such a short space of time, the storyline is not very clear in terms of what Mabel's motivations are as a character. This lack of narrative clarity confusion certainly resulted in some confusion. Why does she feel the way she does? Or are we not supposed to know?

Suffice to say, this film does have a good level of artistic license. Repeated shots of both the domestic space and the outdoor spaces effectively build elements of foreshadowing for the events to come. Each scene feels cold and uninviting and is filmed differently to the last in that the camera is positioned at all various angles as if closing in on Mabel herself. Any viewer can definitely appreciate the thought that went into the filming of this short.

However, what lacks is some depth with regards to the viewer, who are arguably too emotionally distanced from Mabel's story. However, Nordin has embarked upon several projects since Mabel and is continuing to create short films, all with original ideas. It will be great to see her future projects and how she continues to tell thought-provoking narratives.


Watch the trailer for Mabel here:



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