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The Correspondent

Written and Directed by Alan King

Starring Alan King, Rebecca McCauley, May Khun, Dino Marnika & Isabella King

Short film review by Hannah Sayer

Of his experimental short film, The Correspondent, Alan King stated that: “Approaching this film with a desire to break away from conventional story structure, I created a narrative arc that was somewhat less literal and primarily focused on merging the lead character’s conscious and subconscious actions”. This avant-garde and radical example of filmmaking leaves the viewer puzzled as to what its overall message is, but doesn’t fail to impress with its visually stunning aesthetic as we are led into the depths of a struggling man’s subconscious.

The film is a chronicle of one man’s journey through love, loss and resurrection, after the death of his child. It begins with a scene of the man submerged in water, where deep and vibrant colours are used, to represent that this is a focus on the character’s subconscious actions. This juxtaposes the black and white sections of the narrative that will follow which represent the character’s conscious actions. The direction then moves on to a black and white sequence of a car journey, with the viewer in the position of being in the back witnessing the action, or lack of action, on the streets. This long shot is accompanied by a voiceover on the news about political conflict in Thailand, alluding to the title of the piece, as it is reported by a South East Asia correspondent. This quickly cuts to a shower scene, which is heavily edited with bold black and white contrast, giving the fragmentary sequence a surrealist edge. We are then brought back to the car ride, with the viewer accompanying the narrator on this journey. The narrative continues to insert heavily contrasted black and white shots and repeat the starting scene of the man being engulfed by the pool. This creates a sense of the man being unable to move on from this event in his life, which is causing his identity to become blurred and repetitive. Although it is not fully clear at this point, it seems that the narrative is evoking that the character is unable to let go of the past as he is haunted by loss, which is why his mind keeps reverting back to the pool scene.

This man’s mind is in disorder, which becomes even more hauntingly apparent when the imagery of the kaleidoscope is used. These bright colours and obscure patterns establish a heightened sense of emotion, as it seems as if the viewer is witnessing something psychedelic or dreamlike. The rich palette of blues and reds used contrasts with earlier examples of the black and white imagery. When watching this part of the film, I was reminded of the pleasing aesthetic of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives (2013). The visually stunning nature of Refn’s work constrasts its dark subject matter, which is the case with The Correspondent. A man’s loss after the death of his child is made apparent through stylistically and beautifully shot pieces of experimental film intercut within the black and white pieces of the narrative, which symbolise the past. By constantly interweaving black and white with colour, to represent the conscious and the subconscious, King is effectively using film as a medium to express this man’s innermost thoughts and feelings and how strange and unique this feels to the outside world.

The jaunty, shaky hand held quality of the final black and white piece of the narrative, of the man running down a corridor as he suddenly falls out of a window, adds a realistic effect, as if we are

watching a real life case unfold in front of our eyes, as the viewer is witness to how the man is feeling lost as the intensity builds. It is interesting and thought provoking for the film to end on the imagery of the pool that has been repeated throughout, but developed slightly. The final image of his daughter in the frame, permanently frozen in time and lost forever, is deeply upsetting and creates a sense of nostalgia for the past. The moving final piece of music that accompanies this establishes this experimental piece as a heartbreaking self realisation of what has been lost.

King is successful in what he states he wanted to do, of ‘a desire to break away from conventional story structure’. Its lack of any structure, its jaunty editing and rapid changes from black and white to colour, allow for the viewer to fully realise the disorder of this man’s mind. The short film is more of an exploration of the mind, rather than of a single journey, as it feels as though the ending doesn’t leave us knowing for sure that this man has accomplished all that he set out to.

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