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The Missing Piece short film review

Video editing and design by: Joshua Brown

Written by: Erin Matthews and Joshua Scheid

Starring: Felix Aguilar Tomlinson, Erin Matthews


 

The title is hand-written in a hand-drawn picture frame suggesting a quaint homely feel.
Title card for The Missing Piece

Okay, so it's probably best to say this now so that you don't need to read on any further if you don't want to – The Missing Piece is opera. Bet you're glad I mentioned that – huh? So now you know not to watch this stuff if opera aint your thing, which it probably isn't because you thought you were here to read a review of film – right?


Now, we all know that crossovers happen; that most films these days are adapted from books or (sigh) comic books; that there's always been a place on the Silver Screen for song and dance numbers; that stage musicals and even stage plays do make it onto the big screen from time to time; but we also know that only very rarely do they manage the transition successfully, and even more rarely do they ever improve upon the original format.


It seems pertinent then to question the validity of transposing opera onto a screen format, especially a static screen format such as this one, as it seems like all of the experience of going to the opera is taken away. It's kind of like when they show ballet on the telly at Christmas – does anyone ever watch it? Does anyone ever get the feeling of what it would actually be like to be at a ballet from seeing it like that on the telly?


I didn't think so.


So what is the benefit then of setting The Missing Piece on film? Strange Trace, the team behind it would tell you that it's about access, letting people come to opera who would otherwise be kept out from its elitist ways, but frankly this sounds like they're reaching. In reality it just appears to be a way for this troupe to get their mugs in front of the camera and be seen. Nothing else seems to be going on here. You could perhaps entertain their argument of access if their little mini-opera was any good and therefore have a chance of being seen by a (semi) large cohort of people – but it's not. In fact it's pretty dire by any standards.


The premise is that of a company Zoom meeting gone wrong (the standard unoriginal lockdown scenario). So everyone is lined up in front of their static cameras, facing the audience and singing at one another, while the music plays from another member of the team sitting in a darkened room. There is some attempt at a plot involving a waffle-iron and team members who are randomly dying during the Zoom call, but this gets confused in amongst all of the singing and can even be seen as a blessing when there are less and less people to keep the singing going.


The music, played by Greg Nahabedian, is the major turn off as it grates and gurns and gnashes its way through the whole film. The entire score sounds like it's being played by a blind, one eared, three-pawed cat walking up and down on a 70's Casio keyboard with its settings stuck on 'bad synth'. The choice of this style of music to accompany the film seems completely unfathomable.


There's no acting, only singing, and no camera movement, yet somehow the characters do manage to come across somewhat. There are attempts at backstory and humour if you can decipher them from the lyrics, but for that you'd have to watch more than the first few minutes, and to do that is just not really worth it. There's also the fact that the audio recording (which has obviously been done separately in a recording booth) doesn't match up with the video and it is glaringly obvious that the people on screen aren't actually singing in front of their cameras at all, which when this is the entire shtick of what you're trying to do kind of undermines the whole affair from the start.


At thirty-seven minutes long The Missing Piece isn't a short short but at least in terms of opera length it is mercifully shorter than the usual four hours. Still not worth your time though.

 

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