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average rating is 2 out of 5


Joe Beck


Posted on:

Jul 8, 2023

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Elisa Gruber
Written by:
Elisa Gruber
Bella Kouds

Ideas revolving around multiple personality disorders have been woven into the fabric of cinema for a very long time. From Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’, with the split Norman Bates at the forefront of the film, to the likes of ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Shutter Island’, or more recently M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Split’. Even in the silent era the classic German expressionist masterpiece ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ touches on themes involving multiple personality disorders, though very as an undercurrent to possession and hypnosis. As the name suggests, ‘Torn’ focuses on a person who has been split into different personas, though this is done to an underwhelming effect that feels more put upon than actually engaging.


Written and directed by Elisa Gruber, the film opens with a creative flourish that is then not followed by anything inventive or exciting. Gruber’s directing, beginning with a distorted hand rapping the table, before creatively turning the camera swiftly to pan to the woman whom the hands belongs to, Una (or at least that’s one of her names), is competent, though becomes far less entertaining as the film progresses, and some lacklustre editing, in the quick cuts between Una and who we presume to be her therapist, becomes more prominent. Nevertheless, it is Gruber’s directing that initially grabs the attention, and ensures that the film begins with at least some momentum, even if that is lost by the end of the short four minute runtime.


Gruber’s writing, on the other hand, becomes too bogged down in a plot which ultimately goes nowhere and feels underdeveloped. Whilst the short runtime of course naturally contributes to this, this does not account for the failure to properly explore character in such a short time. ‘Torn’ goes nowhere in developing its central female character beyond giving her select names - Tiffany, Una, etc., and giving a half-baked background involving a school bus accident and violent episode. In a wider context these may be useful to understanding our protagonist better, however, in the spry four minutes they just feel like unnecessary details to a character whom there is little point investing in. The film focuses on the woman’s past to develop character where a superior film, knowing its short runtime, would focus on present emotions.


Gruber’s writing also lets down her lead performer Bella Kouds, whose dialogue sounds stilted and is delivered over dramatically. This in turn reduces the believability of the woman’s split personality, making the film as a whole far less engaging. Although Kouds performance, dialogue aside, is effective - conveying a broad range of emotions through facial expressions - it isn’t enough to truly grip the viewer, and as her discussion with the therapist progresses, it becomes ever more wearisome. The stale nature of ‘Torn’ is not aided by the score, which is frustratingly amateur, as though A.I. was asked to select a stereotypical ‘dreamy’ selection of sounds to accompany the shifting personalities of our protagonist.


Therefore, whilst ‘Torn’ begins excellently, it fails to build upon that, adding nothing of interest to a tried and trusted cinematic microgenre, and becoming remarkably stale and dry by the end of its short four minute runtime.

About the Film Critic
Joe Beck
Joe Beck
Short Film
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