Seven short film review


Directed by: #JamesMorgan

Written by: #JamesMorgan

Starring: #DagnyBackerJohnsen, #NicholasBoulton, #TrondTeigen

Film Review by: Darren Tilby

James Morgan’s tale of tradition versus development, and of remote peoples and their exploitation in the name of progress, hits all the right notes in this quietly brilliant, thought-provoking and aesthetically stunning piece of cinematic art.

Yohana (Dagny Backer Johnsen), a teenage girl from a small and remote Norwegian Arctic community must, in accordance with her people’s customs, decide the fate of an oil worker (Nicholas Boulton) responsible for the murder of her father. In just seven seconds, Yohana will make a life or death decision – both with equally devastating consequences – that will not only imprint itself on her for life but may also determine the future of her people.

Appropriately, Johnsen’s performance, along with the prevailing mood of the film in general, is a masterclass of abject tension and uncertainty. Yohana exudes it by the bucketload, and it creates a genuine sense of claustrophobia in a film predominantly situated in gorgeous hinterlands and vast seascapes. Other than the superb acting by the cast and the few snippets of personality found in the movie’s limited dialogue, there isn’t much in the way of characterisation. This isn’t a problem, however, and I actually found this added to the sense of alienation the viewer’s supposed to feel in what for most is a massive departure from normality.

But then the central focus here isn’t the characters at all; it’s the landscape itself. And it makes sense: this striking setting is at the heart of the film’s emotional resonance, and much of the characterisation exists here. It holds a deific quality, achieved with Jack Wyllie’s fantastically understated score, that holds back just enough to allow the ambient sounds to shine and set the mood. And Benjamin Sadd’s masterfully crafted visuals, featuring bleak but beautiful landscapes, juxtaposed with the looming threat of encroaching oil rigs, and metaphor-heavy imagery makes a remarkable statement about the state of these people’s world and how it has shaped them as a community.

There’s something inherently appreciable about this battle between new and old; progress and tradition; the large corporations and the little people standing in their way. The topic is always relevant and up for debate, and it’s been put to screen many times before. But Seven’s horror-movie inflexions and the murky undercurrent of impending doom, reminiscent to that of The Wicker Man and Ari Aster’s Midsommar, help to set it apart from the plethora of others like it.

Seven is a piece I enjoyed a great deal: a film which juggles juxtaposition and metaphor in its visuals, sets the mood with its soundtrack and brings it all together to impart character to the surroundings and the people that inhabit them. Seven is a work of cinematic art and a masterpiece of character building. It’s hard to see how it could be made any better, mainly because it couldn’t be.