Funeral for Furmanski
23 Apr 2022
Johnny Catalano, Olivia Dennis, Chad Goodwin
From Ohio with love, the story of the Furmanski family is about a family from small-town Ohio retracing their routes in the most raw and uncomfortable way possible. This directorial debut of writer and director Johnny Catalano, Funeral for Furmanski, is a short film positioning siblings Steve, Emma and Chase in the same place for the first time in years after the death of their father. Connections and conflict are exhumed as each character is forced to view the past and thereby examine their present.
Aesthetically, the film is very clever in breaking the short up into chapters, with jarring yet effective interludes and a pointed colour contrast. These red chapter screens almost give the piece a Kubrick-esque thriller feel in that they are designed to unsettle the viewer whilst giving the film an older, classically authentic feel. Shaky camera shots weave in and out of this and provide deliberate variation of shots that are filmed very well, indicating Catalano’s excellent direction. His admiration of Western films certainly shines through in the look and feel of the home location where the three siblings grew up. His directing is pointed, as every aesthetic decision or movement is planned and focused on the young members of a family coming together despite their annoyance for each other.
Plot points draw so many questions concerning Steve’s dynamic with his two siblings and the world outside of the home setting. Whilst the acting is a bit wooden at first, it quickly warms up as a family dynamic tinged with grief centralises itself as the characters all try to behave normally despite having just buried their father. Emma and Chase have an unavoidable reason to come back from their busy lives in the big city to see their brother, Steve, still living the small-town existence that they have tried so desperately to disassociate from. Their relationships become clearer as they struggle even to make surface-level conversation and attempt to mask the fact that they do not like each other very much. Everything they say to each other sounds insulting, confirming that old saying that grief does weird things to people. You suddenly get the sense that they are estranged, and the conversations turn volatile over the course of the forty-minute film as old memories are re-hashed in a painful way.
We the viewer are positioned as the fourth member of the family – sat at the table experiencing these events like we are sat in on a very uncomfortable dinner table conversation. It feels too real to simply be an observer, further displaced by the eccentric interludes between scenes that further throw the film into clever chaos. Steve’s fury at his siblings not being there whilst their father was dying battles against Chase’s ideas for their father’s house and shop. On the other hand, Emma is simply struggling with her sense of self when being in her home town, pointing to the realities of her true relationship to her family. Tracking camera shots give a sense of all of their emotions in a very up close and personal way as they struggle to confront the ultimate question: what is next?
Funeral for Furmanski subverts classic expectations as each grown-up child is forced to confront who they are now that their father and connection to their childhood is dead. As they torment each other in the midst of processing their grief, there is a sense of being stuck in time as if there will be no reconciliation. All the while, Furmanski remains the absent character who is very much still in the room.
This questioning of what truly matters provides a deeply-layered and poignant short film. It will be exciting to see what future filmmaking Catalano embarks upon next.