Directed by: #AbyPhilip
Starring: Aby Philip, #Syamdas
Men Derish (Born Again) is an intriguingly mythical and captivating short film from director Aby Philip.
Although short on plot in the conventional sense, Philip’s film is a primordial exploration of human life that resonates like a centuries-old folktale or passage from an esoteric scripture.
Sparsely shot but with excellent attention to lighting and composition combined with a minimalist soundtrack, the film has a striking visual quality that sticks in the mind like a bad dream or a bearly-recalled memory.
Featuring only Philip himself and actor Syamdas, two men, naked and confused inside a small, wet and uncomfortable space trade lines as they try to make sense of their situation.
Diametric opposites, the two men share their thoughts in rapid bursts: one monosyllabic and morose, the other much more curious and adventurous.
The central conflict is that old, familiar polarity: to stay or to go; to be or not to be (quite literally, as it turns out). The film plays with the conflict inside each person which yearns for the new and yet clings to the old. The conclusion of Men Derish certainly gives the audience something to think about.
The dialogue feels like something straight out of a Samuel Beckett play: simple, opaque, cryptic lines that draw the audience in and invite you to spend four minutes attempting to unravel a mystery.
Or, you can choose not to focus on an idea so concrete as ‘what’s going on’ and simply enjoy the aesthetic being offered so captivatingly by Philip.
It’s tempting to speculate that the director picked up the fantastic lighting cues from Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) – pure speculation, but audiences familiar with that film will doubtlessly recall the iconic meeting with Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando).
To sum up what’s so fascinating about Men Derish is challenging, not least because the movie’s length hardly leaves the audience any time for feel settled in before it’s over.
The film is prefaced by an Einstein quote intended to highlight the concept of relativity. Although its inclusion adds a level of intellectual intrigue, it does somewhat clash against the dreamlike space erected by Philip’s camera.
We, the audience, are thrown into this movie’s brief universe which tells more with images than it does with words. Einstein’s quote jars in its rationalisation of something which cannot be logically explored, but this is a minor point to labour.
The overall presentation of the Men Derish is highly enjoyable and thought-provoking. The film won a Silver Award at the North American Film Awards 2017, and that is a well-deserved accomplishment. More films of this quality from Philip are sure to follow.