Directed by Michael Panduro
Staring Claus Flygare, Camilla Mia Wakke and Susann Cornelius
Short Film Review by Daniel Reason
The Sunken Convent is Michael Panduro’s reimagining of Hans Christian Anderson’s story of the same name. This is a dialogue-less film that shows a day in the life of this strange, unhappy man- played by Claus Flygare - whose name isn’t revealed until the end credits. As the film progresses, we learn more and more about the everyday things that he does day after day, and his life is certainly far from normal.
In many ways, this film can be considered as a critique of our behaviours and attitudes. This is a very bleak and dark film, both literally and figuratively. As each day of this man’s life goes by, he continues to do the same things each day with no hesitation, even though some of those things are so absurd and adverse. Just through a single shot, we see just how long he has been living in this constant cycle, and this makes it clear that he has become very accepting of his rather poor life style.
Occasionally, we see the eye of an unknown neighbour, as the man walks by, which suggests that Panduro is highlighting our own obsession and intrigue about other people and their lives, which therefore demonstrates how intrusive we can be. It is because of all this that it makes you question your own self, and wonder about the things that we do day after day without any regard or second thought – this is a very though provoking film, which makes it such an unforgettable experience.
As previously said, this is an adaptation of a story from Hans Christian Anderson, but it is told, and shown, much differently than the original source material. While interesting choices and changes are made, it can leave you feeling quite confused about what you’re watching. This is essentially a silent film, so it tells the story through visual storytelling. While some things can be understood and learned about not just the story, but the main character as well, certain elements are so surreal and quite intense at times, that you must wonder “was that truly needed?” This is a shame, as it makes research almost necessary, as without it, it is hard to comprehend what you have just seen. There are moments that are full of intensity and surrealism that it can be quite difficult to watch, but those moments are directed so incredibly well and with the excellent use of lighting on display, you want to persist, despite how graphic the images are.
The cinematography is the stand out here. The Director of Photography, Snorre Ruhe, has used the lighting thoughtfully, which in turn leads some very impressive shots. It accompanies Michael Panduro’s direction and is without doubt the thing that makes the film flow. Although, there are moments where the lighting, or lack thereof, can make it difficult to see what it is actually happening, causing some details to be missed or misunderstood. Despite that, it is the cinematography that will be the thing you will remember most about the film’s style and construction.
The Sunken Convent is at times very surreal and haunting, but it manages to ask questions about ourselves and wonder more about other people and the way everyone lives. While it would have been appreciated for more story elements to be revealed, this is a 15-minute film that manages to achieve so much.