Directed by: #MarcusThomas
Written by: Marcus Thomas
‘Ain’t you gotta get paid?’ is a question that is put to the music video director protagonist of Marcus Thomas’s No Exposure. Yet such a straightforward query is given significant existential profundity within this innovative reimagining of the neorealist film movement.
No Exposure centres around Benjamin, a talented London based photographer who utilises his skills to supplement his income and care for his dementia affected grandmother. The freelance nature of his work garners him employment to create a music video for an upcoming albeit intimidating rap trio. However, as the day progresses into the night, so too do the musicians descend into an array of criminal activities of which Benjamin becomes a reluctant bystander.
The amount of freewill that people have in a chaotic world has been a central debate amidst philosophers for generations. Similarly, this sentiment is comprehensively vitalised through the character Benjamin within Thomas’s intricate screenplay. As a creator of art, one would suspect that the protagonist’s imaginative use of his camera would allow him to transcend his otherwise hostile reality. Nevertheless, whether he is proposing shots, or he is questioning the legality of his footage, Benjamin’s ideas are frequently repudiated by his employers. Why does he allow this? Because he relies on payment to provide for himself and his grandmother. Thus, as the spectator occasionally views the world through Benjamin’s camera, there remains an underlying sense that even his visions, like his social situation, is out of his control.
The increasingly antagonistic milieu that Thomas constructs in No Exposure is meticulously construed to be oppressive to Benjamin’s creative freedom and freewill. Notwithstanding, the intricacy and graceful pacing of Thomas’s work would be undeniably dismantled without the impeccable performances within the film. Emanuel Gue particularly stands out due to the subdued frustration with which he performs the role of Benjamin. At once, Gue skillfully crafts a character who is desperate to escape his position, but in the meantime realises that he has no influence on the circumstances that define him. This is directly contrasted by the trio of rappers each portrayed with controlled excellence by Arnold Chukwu, Lucas ‘Bubzy’ Walters, and Marcus Thomas himself. Whereas Benjamin is constrained in his efforts to make an honest living, the criminals’ act in accordance to their own rules with little respect for others. The antithetical performances consequently cultivate the philosophical dynamic that resides throughout Thomas’s screenplay.
The filmic study of an individual’s freewill within the broader society permeated the immediate post-war cycle of Italian films, including Rome, Open City and Umberto D, which became collectively known as neorealism. Although one would not necessarily associate the use of original hip-hop compositions and the employment of different cameras with these works, their stylistic and conceptual sentiments are shared with No Exposure. The realistic #cinematography coupled with a lack of dramaturgy and narrative closure throughout No Exposure allows one to fully sympathise with Benjamin’s plight despite his fictional status. However, Thomas’s skillful revival of neorealist forms alongside excellent performances create an allegory for a reality that becomes strenuous to deny which remains with the spectator long after the film’s conclusion.