Directed by Keyvan Sheikhalishahi Starring Agnès Godey, Götz Otto and Keyvan Sheikhalishahi Short Film Review by Annie Vincent
With a compelling blurb, Vesper promises an intriguing psychological rollercoaster, but unfortunately, it does veer a little off course.
Vesper opens interestingly enough: a middle aged woman, Marge (Godey), is visited by her teenage nephew, Christian (Sheikhalishahi), who is slowly going blind. Despite his young age, it is clear they are close as he is visiting due to his concern for her safety. Why? Because she has revealed in phone calls that her ex-husband, Walter (Otto), has found her, after nine years spent hiding from him, and has been sending her threatening, and psychologically warped, letters. In a bid to help his aunt, Christian goes to the meeting place stipulated in the final letter, only to be humiliated and beaten back to the house by Walter who seems unhinged enough to end his wife’s life.
The viewer’s journey through this one is a little challenging, which is sad because the idea really could have been quite good. Initially, it seemed that the translation into English (subtitled) might be diluting the nature of the relationship between Marge and Walter as both Marge and Christian seemed excessively worried about the return of Walter and the tone of the letters he had sent. It felt a little like they knew something we didn’t and it would have been helpful for the audience to gather a deeper understanding of the nature of their previous relationship and what exactly she was running from. It turns out, the ambiguity here was part of the outcome, and so, it eventually makes sense, but what it also means is that the audience are already alert to the twist in this psychological thriller: Marge’s state of mind. As such, the journey towards the climax becomes a bit predictable – no unreliable narrator leading us up the garden path here. We know she is unreliable from the off.
Whilst the script leaks out all of that tension and mystery too soon, there are some good performances put in, especially by Godey who plays the disturbed and vulnerable housewife well, whilst revealing a subtler vixen-like side. Otto also oozes that fatal charm required by all violent-husband-caricatures and is convincing in his menace. The close camerawork in the house scenes is also well done, with the use of light and shadow thoughtful in establishing the moody tension required for the genre. Despite concerns about the possible pitfalls of translation in terms of nuance, the subtitles themselves are accurate and grammatically correct for English-speaking audiences so a plot can certainly be followed. Sadly, it is the working of that plot line that hasn’t quite delivered here, which is a shame as it is easy to see how this could have been an engaging addition to the genre.