Directed by: Calin Butnaru
Written by: #CalinButnaru
A tender and introspective piece from #filmmaker Calin Butnaru, Neon Heart tells the story of a talented pianist experiencing a tumultuous period in his life. Broken into numerous acts and donning neon bracelets of different colours, this short film is layered with subtext and cinematic cues.
Enobong Bassey plays the aforementioned pianist, whose serious skills at the keys and the adoration of his peers do not seem to compensate for his crushing emotional instability. With two empty chairs at his latest recital and a foreboding phone call, we witness his breakdown with music and cling to the hope that he may retrieve his keyboard from the dumpster with the help of time and his friend (played by Julien Mouquet).
Intimate and intriguing, Butnaru teases at something grander than we actually get given as viewers. The neon braces are a nice touch but are never full explained, as is the complexity of the central character's anguish. There is a nice segment during a class about the link between science and music which could have been furthered.
Neon Heart is riddled with technical issues, most notably for a film about a pianist with the sound. The dialogue is inaudible at times and there are microphone issues throughout.
That being said, the performance scenes are utterly engrossing with Bassey's fingers dominating the piano and serving up delectable musical treats.
Having structured the piece into acts (including a prologue and epilogue) and then included animated inter-titles and a second language (French), the movie starts to feel like a film studies project whereby the rules of engagement were made clear by a teacher's brief instead of narrative necessity. The ambiguity around the central character's heartache is just one of the ways this is noticeable. Had more time been devoted to the plot and backstory viewers may have felt more invested in the fallout we seem to be witnessing.
The performances are uneven from the supporting cast but Bassey is fairly poignant and arresting for most of his scenes. He deals well with the vulnerability of the character without giving way to amateurish theatrics and the inner conflict he is experiencing becomes best expressed through his physicality rather than any lines from the script.
As a piece of experimental cinema there are aspects to Butnaru's Neon Heart which are impressive. He seems capable of grappling with the emotional core of a story even if the delivery seems thwarted by rigid construction and a lack of decent equipment.
More from him and Bassey would be welcome and as a starting point there are enough pleasing melodies in this piece to show great promise.
Watch the official movie trailer for Neon Heart below.