Film review by: Brian Penn
A film without dialogue places all emphasis on visuals and the power of physicality. The Brass Elephant in the Room does not even allow the luxury of captions so enamoured of the silent movie era. Instead it tells a story with sharp visual transitions that are heavily symbolic and open to suggestion. The first scene presents a Chesterfield sofa, lampshade, table, rug and figurine on a plinth. It looks suspiciously like the GP surgery waiting room to which I was occasionally dragged as a child.
A sickly pale faced man (Edward Saunders) gingerly sips a cup of tea. Presently a chandelier comes crashing to the ground. The pieces eventually transform into a woman (Tatjana Anders). Unfazed by this metamorphosis the man utters just one word, ‘Tea?’ (ok strictly speaking I lied about there being no dialogue). The freshly matched couple silently negotiate obstacles and events that seemingly have no connection with reality, time or reason.
The film never fails to engage the viewer with its arresting visuals and curiosity stoking playfulness. Many would be quickly frustrated by the piece because it’s such hard work trying to establish what’s happening and why. But drama doesn’t need to be that obvious to be entertaining. The theatre of the mind can sometimes play tricks and take us to places that are new and challenging. The minimal lighting and dark styling can portray a sinister tone but also verge on dry humour (if you choose to read it that way).
The film’s title can be furiously misleading; after all an elephant in the room is an obvious problem that people avoid discussing or acknowledging. So what am I missing here that is so obvious and what is the relevance of a brass elephant? This could be far too deep for a simple soul like me; or maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all and they’ve just been playing me all along. Either way it’s a beautifully constructed piece that challenges the distinction between film and art. Wherever the subtleties of that argument lay, this certainly wouldn’t be out of place in an art gallery.