Written and Directed by Brett Chapman
Starring Brett Chapman
Short Film Review by Seamus Conlon
It’s often said that love is a form of madness. This cliché becomes sadly relevant and manifest in the short film, The Residue of a Relationship, where writer/director Brett Chapman madly overestimates the interest to a film audience of a former romantic relationship of his. For fifteen minutes we watch Chapman detail his whirlwind romance and how he and his former love chose to cope with their geographically necessitated breakup. To expand upon the love-as-psychosis metaphor, watching this film all the way through is a bit like being stopped in the street by someone who proceeds to inform you that we’re all about to be exterminated by a Martian invasion secretly welcomed by the government, and politely choosing to endure the prophecy out of politeness.
The Residue of a Relationship is essentially a documentary narrated by Chapman. It is in large part composed of photo and video snippets taken during his travels with Swedish girlfriend, Ebba. Brett and Ebba met in Amsterdam (this is not dramatically reconstructed, but communicated purely through clips and pictures from the scene as well as voiceover), fell in love, and subsequently travelled the world together. But ultimately both had to return to their separate homelands of Britain and Sweden. As souvenirs and for emotional support, Ebba wrote Brett seven letters for him to open and read in hours of need. Chapman reads aloud and visually illustrates (unimpressively) the letters, before the film concludes by covering his reunion with Ebba, at which point he resolved to accept that the romantic spark had fled, and move forward with life, grateful for the experience he had received.
Resources for this short were clearly sparse, but the absence of a budget does not determine a lack of imagination. Considering that the core of the film is Chapman narrating his love story and reading out Ebba’s letters, it often sounds like a self-help podcast, scored by harmonically primitive electro/synth tracks that seem almost to kookily and self-consciously pastiche the music for PAC-MAN. The short lacks visual expansiveness and is constructed almost exclusively of close-ups focusing on particular pieces of unexciting visual information, such as ice cream or a glass of water. This music-video aesthetic is similar to the dependence upon short close-ups in Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream; but whereas in that film the frenzied and myopic focus on particular things and images persuasively represented the obsession of drug addiction, in The Residue of a Relationship the fixated, un-circumspect style becomes unwittingly correlative to the film’s inability to see the limited appeal of its romantic subject matter.
As a love letter to an ex-girlfriend, The Residue of a Relationship may be superb. But a filmmaker’s own personal romantic experiences and memories cannot in themselves generate something of universal aesthetic value.