Directed by Andrew Kotatko
Starring Jean-Marc Barr, Radha Mitchell, and Jane Birkin
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Andrew Kotatko's exquisite short film, Whoever Was Using This Bed, is an intimate and mysterious rendering of a relationship that, over the course of one night, gets laid bare with spectacular drama.
Focusing on Jean-Marc Barr and Radha Mitchell as a couple, Ray and Iris, whose good night's sleep is rudely disturbed by a relentless wrong number being dialled, with a woman asking to speak to a Mick. The pair, unable to get back to sleep, end up dissecting some weighty topics surrounding their relationship, including some maudlin existential banter, whilst the voice (Jane Birkin) on the end of the phone becomes increasingly fascinating to Ray, causing him to linger alone in the dark listening to her strange ramblings.
Kotatko let's his screenplay (from a short story by Raymond Carver) unravel like a sweet aroma that basks around two incredible performances. The countless layers of intrigue in Whoever Was Using This Bed are allowed to permeate the viewer subconsciously, hidden behind a subtle veil of domesticity. All this is then complemented by a gorgeous mise en scéne that combines the best elements of noir, thriller, and psychological suspense movies.
Barr is a thoroughly engaging co-lead, riffing through a menu of emotions within the opening few minutes, and then bringing some great grounding later on, he lends a fantastic foundation. A foundation which Mitchell launches a hugely enigmatic and striking performance. She is an on screen force to be reckoned with, turning in daring moments of intimacy, power struggles and vulnerability. At times it was like watching Charlize Theron or Michelle Pfeiffer in one of their more dramatically impressive roles.
The score and sound editing were very affecting. Natural noises were used to enhance the sense of foreboding, such as the clack of the phone being put down or the flick of a switch on a table lamp. One moment of quick editing when Ray makes some coffee was reminiscent of Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz, which added a nice injection of humour. This was one of only a few light moments, though, as the main tone (and appeal) of Kotatko's short film is one of perilous tension and intrigue.
Aside from a couple of clanging script moments (the use of "baby" is quite jarring), Whoever Was Using This Bed is a daring and atmospheric short film, and a fantastic cinematic achievement.