Directed by Steve Kahn
Starring Rena DuShey, Shannon Elizabeth, & Sarah DuShey
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Whimsical and poignant, short film The Opera Singer from filmmaker Steve Kahn tackles the enduring theme of growing old with regrets, in a manner which feels at once full of life and full of death.
Movies that tackle the idea of old age are often laced with tenderness, most likely to reflect the calm clarity that characters may feel having lived most of their lives and pushed through the irrelevancies of the day-to-day, able to focus on the things important to them. These movies also contain a recurring theme of regret, or some kind of longing to relive an earlier portion of their life again (either to experience it anew, or do things differently). The Opera Singer's main character is an elderly lady (Rena DuShey) who is moving into her final chapters, whilst reminiscing about two things: going to Italy to be an opera singer, and her beloved pet dog.
Having her inner thoughts intimately narrated by Shannon Elizabeth, the audience is treated to bittersweet reflections from a character in tragic circumstances. The short film, though, does not dwell in sadness too much, and the script contains a sweetness to it which transcends any morbid discussions about the hopelessness of existence, and instead highlights the beautiful things which meant a lot to this person during her life.
This balance between life and death is wonderfully paralleled with the cinematography. Kahn uses a mixture of vibrant and colourful sequences, against drab and dull scenes to pick out the coalescing thoughts of our protagonist's mood. The splendour of sheet music pages turning and wind chimes in the garden are juxtaposed with bleak nursing home corridors and hospital beds.
There exists a fragility to both the character and the filming. When the character talks about the speed with which she grew old, how it passed in a blur, the filmmaking responds with quick edits between the short scenes, that accompany this theme perfectly.
Further enhanced by an emotionally charged musical score, the overall effect is a moving, tender, and thought-provoking piece of filmmaking that manages to capture life, death, and everything in between within a 3-minute running time.