The Beast Within
24 Jan 2022
Dialogue and movement are scarce in Philip Brocklehurst’s flawed ode to repressed bestial fervour.
Not a word is uttered in The Beast Within, only a whirlwind of snapping and snarling from a man nay brute immured inside a metal cage. Austere is the name of the game here: there are no cuts, no camera movement, and but a kernel of editing in this ode to the undying bestial flame which burns within us all. But this austerity should also apply to the film’s wearisome five-minute running time, where a surfeit of hollering and howling degrades from exhilarating to tedious.
Rule breaking is the bread and butter of the experimental filmmaker. Without those daring enough to snap cinematic codes and conventions, there would be no drive to subvert film in a way that creates a meaningful analogy about the social and cultural landscapes we inhabit. But Brocklehurst’s piece demonstrates there is such a thing as too experimental; too far removed from conventional plot; too absent of movement and life. A rather bland combination.
Yes, the short is about repressed emotion imprisoned in the subconscious of every human being, but action – of any significant kind – is inhibited to the point of monotony. P.M. Thomas channels raw animalistic fervour for his portrayal of “the beast”, only for the potency of this display to be restrained by the bars of the pound.
There was plenty of room to elucidate the experience of this repression through audacious cinematography or tricky editing, however this is supplanted by dull set pieces put to a soundtrack of scratched metal and increasingly laboured roars. Perhaps this would work better as a two-minute short.
Now, this isn’t to say Brocklehurst cannot transform the material into something more intoxicating; the film’s transposition of animality onto the human image provides ample room for exploration in a future project – especially if Thomas reprises his role with selfsame vigour. But a less-restrictive approach to filmmaking needs to be applied, one which allows for filmic apparatus to be more freely used. Even Vinterberg and Von Trier contradicted their “Vows of Chastity” from time to time.