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The Symbol of Life Short Film Review


Directed by: #PhilipBrocklehurst


The Symbol of Life is a short film written and directed by Philip Brocklehurst and performed by Marie Browne (‘Her’) and P. M. Thomas (‘Him’) providing a meaningful recital of a thoughtful poem about the human condition - 'The Symbol of Life'.

Before the prose begins the camera focuses first on a belly shot of the female speaker and then switches to the male's belly all announced by the sound of an ominous gong. Then the camera switches to the next two static shots a slightly more flattering head shot of the female partially lit and done up with heavy make-up and then moves to an extreme close-up of the guy’s face, all to the chime of the ominous gong. These four simple un-uniform fixed frames introduce the speakers as they take it in turns to deliver the poem's lines which are delivered void of much emotion or expression as they start deliberating our maternal beginnings, “Bond to my mother giver of my existence," and continues in a similar pensive sombre vein.

It is a melancholic performance both visually and audibly. Focusing on the bellies of the performers raises questions to the significance of this in line with the words of the poem. Open to interpretation, I'll have a stab at it that it is a maternal and deterministic message about the bodies we inherit and live in, but I could be completely wrong. The disruption of the strange framing along with the banging gong leaves a lasting impression. The belly shots aren't ripped six packs but are instead more rippling fuller stomachs. The extreme close-up of 'Him', which looks like a mug shot and has a sad emotionless expression to match has him looking less made up about the situation than the girl, but only slightly. It leaves you with some mixed emotions, after all the poem sounds like it has an uplifting unifying message for the human condition yet the faces, bodies and sounds have a much more sombre tone.

The prosaic prose, barely six sentences long, delivered in flat monotone voices combined with the unflattering images are all a bit peculiar on the senses. Shooting plain unimaginative backgrounds and speaking without any intonation goes against what we would normally expect from a performance to camera. Even the use of the lighting seems to have an adverse effect on its normal intention casting the woman in a half light and the male's overly worn belt against his half naked torso would suggest there is something else to be read into these details.

Overall it feels like some kind of experimental art project into gender and class and other things no doubt. Its melancholic message a reflection of a more sobering view of the human condition than the one we more often than not see portrayed in the media of smiling faces and perfect bodies. With this clearly the aim of the piece you would have to say it has been successful in its objective. Maybe it's something we would like to see more of rather than the glamorous images of say a Tom Ford film but even still you're left missing the creative pizzazz of the camera and lights. One for the arty crowd.


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