Directed by Sergey Shcherbak
Starring Alexander Ladyka, Angelina Belous, Vadim Griger, Vitalina Lozovskaya
Short Film Review by Owen Herman
Short films, due to no pressure for box office success, are often much more complex and creative than theatrical films. They can reflect personal beliefs of the directors and some try to make a powerful statement. At their best, these more elaborate shorts can be unique works of art that make you think and feel in ways you didn’t expect, at their worst, they can be pretentious, forceful, or misguided. The Image, a Ukrainian film by director Sergey Shcherbak, sits somewhere in the middle. It is certainly complex and well crafted, but it is also a difficult short that lacks accessibility.
The Image looks at a disturbed man, who is seemingly haunted by an image from his TV and confused by his feelings towards his friends. It is dark, twisted, mature, and deals with heavy themes. The Image is hard to fit into one, or even two, genres, with its story playing out like a drama, with themes of a psychological thriller, and some elements of a horror. These different styles blend together well, creating an unsettling, but not confused, tone.
There is less a focus on dialogue and more focus on music and sound, which is used intelligently to get into the main character’s disturbing and mysterious thoughts. It reminded me of Paul Thomas Anderson’s use of music in Punch-Drunk Love, where the chaotic sounds help give you a feel for what’s going on in Adam Sandler’s muddled mind.
The real highlight of the short is the cinematography and visual style. There are some well-executed shots that are very memorable and the colour palette is terrific. The film appears almost entirely in dull colours, mostly black, grey, and white, with flashes of red being the only exception. This really brings out the red, making every inclusion both stunning and packed with meaning.
The dialogue at times felt slightly weak and unrealistic but, due to my lack of any foreign language skills, I had to watch using subtitles so can’t say whether this problem was the script or just the unfortunate translation. As it is most likely the latter, this isn’t a problem with Shcherbak’s original short but I did notice it and it did take me out of the experience at times.
My main problem with The Image is, as mentioned earlier, its inaccessible and difficult nature. Although well-crafted, the short can be difficult to grasp, and its overall meaning remains unclear. Issues like this can depend mainly on the viewer, and I personally found it tough to interpret, but it is an issue nonetheless.
However, despite my confusion, The Image kept me engaged with its dark themes and visual flair. Like the titular image in the short, it is hard to comprehend but remains somewhat haunting.