Directed by: Shu Zhu
Dark and introspective, filmmaker Shu Zhu's captivating short film Moth explores the haunted soul of an actor (Jeanie Lim) as she attempts to find success among a deplorable industry.
Having gained infamy for a previous film, Blue Mistress, Christine (Lim) is still doing the rounds at auditions, hoping for another break from what seems to still be mostly male-dominated power people. Her mundane home life is juxtaposed with the pulsating energy of the movie industry and yet both seem to be slowly eroding her grasp on the world, suggesting a harrowing transformation is on the horizon.
Shu Zhu arrests the viewer with this short by curating an atmosphere of pure intensity. As an audience member we are attached to Christine throughout the piece, with close ups and handheld shots getting as close as possible to her. This intimacy, however, does not engender empathy (although that is a byproduct), instead it makes us feel like an aggressor, hounding this person who seems to be struggling to find peace in their life.
Jeanie Lim is extraordinary in the role. Her performance is nuanced and subtle, engrossing when she needs to be and vulnerable too. The despair of her character is communicated largely through body language, such as the fake smiles she throws at other actors auditioning, or the open eyes as she dances cozily with a producer (Josh McHugh). Christine's slow loss of grip feels all the more heartbreaking for Lim's beautiful depiction of it.
This isn't the first movie to tackle the seedy underbelly of the film industry. Indeed, countless filmmakers find inspiration for their stories from their surroundings. So why should Zhu and co-writer G. Wilson both be telling another tale of woe from the red carpet? Well, short film Moth not only tackles themes of sexism and exclusion in the movies, it also takes a deeper look at the psychological effect this can have on a person. How a career that demands so many versions of someone can ultimately end up changing them into something completely different and, regrettably, worse.
The filmmaking is beautiful, with so many creative and thoughtful sequences to immerse viewers. A particular highlight was the speeding lights overhead, as if the camera was on the backseat of a car. The lights seemed to pass like comets in the night, suggesting a metamorphosis was occurring that was beyond human control.
Moth is thrilling and transfixing cinema that is unrelenting in its intelligence and scope.
Watch the official movie trailer for Moth below.