The Butterflies Have Died film review

★★★

Directed by: #Rinoshun

Written by: #Rinoshun

Starring: #Rinoshun

Film Review by: Patrick Foley



What a profound period the first lockdown was for us all. Hours and hours of empty time, and with it the opportunity to create, innovate and refine our skills and creative urges to finally put those ideas locked away by our daily lives into reality. Or just time to curl up into a ball and cry whilst watching boxsets on repeat. The Butterflies Have Died is a little bit of both experiences – a solo-creative endeavour from director Rinoshun which highlights the loneliness of quarantine and the psychological toll it can take.


A writer fights off the monotony of lockdown, filling his days of isolation with whatever meaningless tasks float through his mind as he tries to refocus on work. As the isolation takes its toll, the danger of the pandemic is overtaken by the writer’s spiritual and mental struggles – which leave him questioning his own reality and the choices he has made.


The Butterflies Have Died was created during the height of India’s COVID lockdown – with the most stringent restrictions determining the nature of this unique production. The entire film was written, filmed and performed by its director Rinoshun, and in these most challenging and demanding of circumstances, it is a fine accomplishment – albeit one with the types of flaws that would be expected of a completely solo production. The film is black-and-white, with past and dream sequences in colour – no prizes for identifying the metaphor there. The film is not afraid to get experimental – and the psychedelic, LSD-fuelled sequences are a highlight.


The plot is loose and undefined, leaving much to the viewer’s interpretation. Solely focused on the writer’s mental state, the film is a deeply personal experience which taps into the struggles we all feel that have been exacerbated by isolation. Rinoshun does a great job of showing that the writer’s problems are not the result of lockdown, but of his own inability to confront his demons. The writing often meanders and is prone to overlong and uncomfortable diatribes. You imagine that this would have been rectified with the help of an editor, but given the circumstances it is a forgivable flaw.


Rinoshun’s self-directed performance is convincing and will echo the difficulties its audience have suffered throughout the summer of COVID (prior to the mind-bending breakdown scenes that is, at least one would hope…). Long, drawn out monologues and one-sided conversations stagnate the film, and no amount of over-emoting can keep the viewer’s attention unfortunately. The strength of the performance instead comes from the physicality Rinoshun brings – from the boredom he experiences at the lockdown’s implementation through to his torment as his mental state declines. Again, given the nature of the project these failings are understandable, but the cracks become too much at times to prevent eyes from rolling.


In a summer that has produced countless COVID-filmed solo projects from directors across the world, standing out is a near-impossible task. But The Butterflies Have Died aims high with its original and experimental exploration of the damage of isolation. The flaws on display are intrinsic to the circumstances of its creation, and it is difficult to see how they could have been rectified without removing the element that makes the film unique. And if imperfections are the cost of originality, then that is a price cinema should always pay.