Directed by Nicolas Courdouan
Starring Sue Walsh, Kojii Helnwein, Ciara Elizabeth Smyth, Brendan Sheehan, Gerry Wade, Stephen Maguire
Short Film Review by Kirsty Asher
Irish indie cinema has been enjoying great success in recent years. The past two years I have been to Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival in Bristol there have been numerous impressive short and animated submissions from Ireland dotted throughout the film festival. Radha, written and directed by Nicolas Courdouan is a dark and rippling mystery of a film in which a young woman goes on a rather strange journey through the night to escape her demons.
The first scene is an almost occultish act by the woman, Saoirse (Sue Walsh), in a secluded glen. She digs a grave for a selection of memorabilia from her past and sets fire to them. The establishing shots hint at a need for catharsis, a need to forget and escape. The cinematography is stunning by DOP Tess Masero Brioso, with this beautiful opening scene and the fascinating experimental lighting later on in the beach scene.
However, there is a sort of interval scene at a house party between this opening and Saoirse’s journey which felt unexplained and essentially only relevant as an inciting incident for the rest of the story. A man calls her by her real name while her supposed friend inexplicably calls her Chloe and it’s never revealed why she’s been living a double life. Perhaps if it had the means to become a feature film this sequence could be fleshed out some more, but in this context it seemed wholly unneeded considering the unnerving and magical quality of the rest of the film. Saoirse flees after a confrontation with the man and ends up watching a one-woman dance show eponymously named Radha. This is an exquisitely choreographed sequence where the camera extracts the harsh beauty of Radha’s body, all muscle and sinew and bone coated in ropes of shining black leather. Her audience is a vampiric gathering of both young and old, clutching at her tortuous movements as if their very lives depended on it, and, perhaps, they do.
The great thing about the writing and direction by Courdouan is that he beautifully illustrates why Saoirse looks to Radha for the ‘solace and oblivion’ mentioned in the synopsis. Radha is a languid Bohemian dancer, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy: is she a demon, is she a flesh-and-blood woman? She purrs her way into Saoirse’s heart with softly-spoken life philosophy while aptly reading Saoirse like a book. The final scene on the beach is one of the most visually impressive scenes I have beheld since Moonlight. There are times when it seems Courdouan has perfectly melded camera movement with body movement as it swoops and spirals to the incredible choreography by Dagmara Jerzak and the two, briefly, seem to become one. It is a remarkable example of choreography and camerawork combining beautifully.
I feel as though a star is on the rise with Nicolas Courdouan and I look forward to seeing more work from Black Ostrich Entertainment.