Directed by: #HarryEdwards
The Muse provides a brief but intelligent cinematic commentary on loneliness and mental health. The short film, running at only 2 minutes and 47 seconds, depicts the mental struggles of a young man in a wheelchair as he drifts through the corridors of what appears to be a hospital, and is composed of a series of tracking shots stitched together in a compellingly unconventional fashion.
The director, Harry Edwards, demonstrates a laudable aptitude for visual storytelling with The Muse. He chooses not to allow the central character any dialogue, meaning that the message of the film is interpreted solely through the actors’ performances, the sonic and visual atmosphere, and suggestive dialogue from others. Thomas Evans, playing the main, nameless character, delivers some solid acting, presenting the mental pain of the young man with clarity. Even without the use of dialogue, he makes the character’s tribulations known through his expressive eyes. Much credit must go to the direction from Edwards, however, who ensures that this performance compliments The Muse’s tone and message.
One shining example of Edwards’ excellent direction is a segment of the movie in which Evans drifts through the corridors, his expression one of internal disaffection and exhaustion. Meanwhile, a man stands near him, oblivious to the central character’s struggles, giving a speech to absolutely no one on the importance of mental health awareness. This brilliantly suggests the sometimes insincere, performative ways that people can preach the importance of positive mental health for the benefit of their own image while those who are genuinely suffering go unnoticed.
Additionally, an interaction between Evans’ young man and a female friend further encapsulates The Muse’s ability to portray mental health issues through excellent technical #filmmaking. While the conversation between these characters again draws attention to the isolation that people with mental health issues can experience, as the woman fails to notice the young man’s inner troubles, the editing and structure of this sequence conveys this same message more tellingly. The first that we see of this interaction is the woman clapping the young man on the shoulder before walking away, and it is only later that we see the dialogue which precedes this. This non-linearity portrays the main character’s sense of helplessness, as though he is drifting monotonously through life with no one truly noticing him, merely experiencing the same meaningless, joyless interactions each day.
These are uncomfortable sequences, as the main character is evidently suffering, but Edwards clearly revels in trying to make this as uncomfortable as possible for the audience so that his message will hit home. For instance, the way that the multiple tracking shots which form the content of The Muse are stitched together is intentionally jarring, as the film lurches haphazardly from one moment to the next, giving it a surreal, unsettling quality. Furthermore, one particularly evocative moment of the film is the segment in which the main character is shown in noticeable discomfort, his face twisted in pain, as a scratching sound builds slowly but frantically until it reaches its truly unsettling crescendo. This sound is intensely difficult to endure, sublimely evoking the main character’s state of mental discomfort, as if he cannot escape from the pain which is clawing away at him from inside his own head.
The film concludes succinctly, as Evans looks directly into the camera, his face shrouded in darkness, his eyes hauntingly imploring you to notice his character’s pain. It’s a sensible, thought provoking end to The Muse, a #shortfilm whose brevity plays to its advantage, sending a simple but effective message through the power of intelligent cinematic storytelling.