Directed by Pedro Pimentel
Director of Photography: Conrad Dundorf
Sound: Spencer Creaghan
Starring: Craig Carpone, Mary Ferarra, Michael Coppola, Isabella Coulombe
Short Film Review by Andrew Moore
If I was to throw at you a clip from Pedro Pimentel’s short film The Priest I’d have absolute confidence that you’d think you’re watching a slick, professionally made feature film, such is the quality of all the Film Short’s production values. Conrad Dundorf’s brooding cinematography is seamless in its style and use of darkened shadow-lit rooms, and it’s edited perfectly to slowly crank up a suspense that’s augmented further with a highly accomplished soundtrack. So let’s not beat around the bush here, it’s all done incredibly well with an extended credits roll at the end that further bears out what a strong team there is behind The Priest. This is bolstered by authentic dialogue and assured performances by all four of the cast including The Daughter (played by Isabella Coulombe) - who doesn’t actually talk. Add to this three slick online trailers and even the excellent single ‘Closer’ which was written for the film by Naples based Italian indie/folk artist Dali Sky and you’ve got a very developed, impressive project. But I should probably now remind you that this is in fact a short film that’s just over 15 minutes long, a short film that manages to wear a very big hat!
To be fair looking at the narrative there’s nothing especially original here at all - early 19th Century America, a deeply religious God-fearing family, young girl (supposedly) possessed, a dubious exorcising priest visits (played excellently by Craig Carpone) - it’s all of course been done before. The nefarious angle comes from how the priest deals with their daughter in front of the parents (solid performances by Mary Ferarra and Michael Coppola respectively) against his more violent, obsessively driven behaviour towards her behind closed doors. So is the girl evil? Is the priest evil? Is the parent’s misguided faith evil or are the constraints of a wider god-fearing society’s effects on its young population evil? The opening spiel at the film’s beginning states that it’s through strong religious beliefs and lack of scientific knowledge, considering ‘the power of God the only existing cure’ as the father states, that the parents come to call upon the priest. The father is essentially more resolute and the mother more questioning as she even implores ‘do you remember what happened to those girls last summer . . . they’re dead.’ Did the priest have anything to do with this? The mother clearly thinks (and states) that they should be looking for answers away from him (hinting at a wider societal logic beyond the parochial one they’re trapped in). Again, we’ve witnessed this type of scenario before but that’s fine with me because it’s often been done well. If you want an example of strange things afoot in a deeply religious, God-fearing society then look no further than Michael Haneke’s superb 2009 film The White Ribbon. I’m sure that if The Priest was in fact drawn out to a feature length (or at least a much longer short film) whilst maintaining its visual style, preferences and techniques along with the slow burning suspense this creates, then it would develop into a highly hypnotic viewing experience.
One wonders if the point of the collective group of people who made The Priest was to mimic or project the image of a a slicker, bigger budget production (thus showcasing their talents in this respect) and to give precedence to that over any true artistic innovation in the narrative because a criticism could be that this element of the film lacks any kind of zing to it. A more developed twist in the story or hidden truths (revealed) and an extra five minutes to accommodate this would’ve given The Priest far more scope, and a much needed extra dimension because of course all the other hard work’s has been done, the parameters have been set in place. That said the ending sequence with the priest’s tyrannically exorcising mouth in close up and then his hands grasping the terrified young girl’s neck certainly ask questions of what he truly is (fanatical or evil). And so is this film an allegory of historical church/societal practices (its abusers and its victims) as we look on incredulously from more enlightened modern times or the tale of a killer of young women (or both)? For me The Priest exists to essentially show how well a short film can be produced – and as noted I can’t fault it on this (in fact on a second viewing I appreciated this aspect even more) yet it’s probably exactly because of this I felt I would have enjoyed it even more with a thicker narrative structure that doesn’t (albeit very professionally) just run through very well oiled cogs for fifteen minutes.