Nov 16, 2023
NEW TO UK FILM REVIEW
Critics Chris Olson and Brian Penn host UK Film Club - a new film podcast covering all film types. From blockbusters to old favourites and even indie & shorts.
Ostensibly, Fallen Angel is a five-minute short film from writer and director James Harris – at least that’s what it says on the tin. But when is a film with your name on it not exactly your own film? Probably when it’s made like this. The footage which makes up Fallen Angel, you see, wasn’t originally shot for the purpose in which it is now being used. Everything that Harris has cobbled together for his five-minute piece was rescued from the cutting room floor of another project, Paradise Lost, History In The Unmaking (2021) which was directed by Andy Howlett and shot by his cinematographers Matt Watkins and Martin McNally. Granted, the footage used does feature James Harris as the titular Fallen Angel but really everything we see was shot by different film-makers for another purpose.
It then doesn’t help that everything on screen, although intended for use in the Paradise Lost… project, is a very close replica of the Wim Wenders classic, Wings Of Desire (1987) right down to the lost angel in fluffy wings wearing a suit. The theme/plot is also strikingly similar as Harris then tacks his poetry on top to suggest that said angel is having a tough time of things in immortality and is beginning to wonder if there isn’t something better than eternity between the worlds of Heaven and Hell. In fact the whole thing smacks so much of the German classic that Fallen Angel does a better job of aping it than the weird ass American remake with Nicolas Cage, City Of Angels (1998).
So just what has Harris done to make this film his? Well, he’s saved the footage for one, and he has reconstituted and edited it to suit his new/borrowed narrative of little angel lost. He has added some postmodern brutalist soundscaping from Snowkitten, who provide some electrosynth noise as a backdrop to the postmodern brutalist setting of beneath Spaghetti Junction; and he has written the aforementioned poem to describe his plot/theme which he reads over the top of his newly stitched together shots. So, quite a bit then, and undoubtedly enough for him to call this Frankenstein’s monster of a short film his own. But is it any good?
Sadly, the answer is no. Forgetting all of the difficulties and abortions which constitute the birthing of this creation, the main problem Fallen Angel has, like Frankenstein’s monster, is in identifying itself. Coming in at under five minutes and having no dialogue; is it a music video, a visual poetry slam, a short film, an art piece, an homage, or really just a mess? Perhaps merely as a showcase it might work but then the poetry itself would have to be good – which it isn’t. Sure, Harris can rhyme but he ends up falling into the trap of turgid theosophising by continually asking questions rather than actually saying anything. While some of the visuals are nice we have definitely seen their like before and Harris has added nothing new to the ‘Angel on Earth’ story with this effort. All credit to him for trying to reclaim something that was lost but in reality all that he found was something that was already there.