Directed by: Aaron Pacentine
Starring: Randy Bruce, Jason Smither and Rhonda Linda Clark
Short Film Review by: Annie Vincent
If you have never seen The Wizard of Oz or its sequel Return to Oz, you really, really should.
The first film, a musical made in 1939 and starring Judy Garland, is a beautiful adaptation of Baum’s book from 1900 and follows Dorothy as a tornado transports her to Oz and she embarks on a journey to find the Wizard who can send her home, meeting a variety of friends and adversaries on the way. The (unofficial) sequel from 1985 also takes inspiration from Baum’s other novels in the series, and follows Dorothy as she returns to Oz six months later to find it crumbling under the tyranny of the Nome King. I could go on about both films for pages and pages: the music, the colour, the performances, the scripts ... For a fan of both films, such as me, reviewing Reflections in the Mirror, a story about a young man obsessed with these same stories and their movies who finds they invade his dreams, seemed to have the potential to impress, to offer a dreamy nostalgia, a trip back to the Yellow Brick Road of 1939 and an encounter with Judy Garland. This short film does none of those things.
It is difficult to find a compliment for this film. It lacks the basic fundamentals of story-telling: there is no narrative structure, no character motivation or integrity and nothing really happens either. Randy, a young man of 15, explains his obsession with the film to camera, occasionally comes away from this to deliver ‘facts’ directly to camera (inconsequential and of no value e.g. Princess Mombi’s room in the 1985 film is number 31 ...), and then jettisons back into a disjointed narrative about having a dream about the 1985 film and needing to visit a park in New York because of it. There, he finds a number of ‘artefacts’ from the film. Later he wakes up as an adult, takes his shirt off and poses in the mirror a few times before hallucinating about a witch (not related to either Oz film) in the bath, before the film turns back to young Randy again. The film doesn’t conform to any generic conventions either, being an odd blend of narrative and documentary clips, so you never really know what you’re watching or why.
To add to this, the technical capability is limited. The camerawork is amateurish, with an obvious lack of sharp focus which audiences today expect considering the technology now available – I’ve seen films shot on iPhones look better than this. JPGs are used throughout and inserted over the top of film with no attempt at blending so it looks like a particularly poor school film studies project and the audio-balancing is so bad you miss most of the script, and at really key moments too, so if there is an attempt to include any kind of revelation or climactic moment, we miss it. Frankly, this was a painful viewing experience and at a run-time of over twenty-five minutes, I can’t see many audience members seeing it through to the end.
The only redeeming feature in Reflections in the Mirror is the choice of background music – ethereal and pretty at times, it suits the magical world Baum created in his novels and was created in both films by their directors, but a tribute film this is not. I cannot recommend this film, but there is never a bad time to revisit those old classics - I mean, Judy Garland: wow!