Short Film - Ophelia


With the film fresh from this year’s LA Shorts Fest, Susan Omand relives the intimidation of the interview process as she watches Anthony Garland's Ophelia...

A young woman arrives at a bizarre job interview and, pressured by an onslaught of questions from an oddball trio, takes a minute to confront her insecurities head on. A twisted look at desire, convention and the perceptions that shape them.

We’ve all been there – the dreaded job interview. Nerves jangling as we size up the opposition in the waiting room before being called through to face that most intimidating of things – the three person panel. No matter how much you’ve prepared, how well you know you could do the job, sitting in that single little chair as they glower down at you from on high guarantees to wipe every piece of knowledge and smart answer from your mind. Panic sets in.

And this feeling of oppression, intimidation and downright discomfort is wonderfully portrayed in the seven minute runtime of this short film. The lead actress Ali Mueller is simply superb, managing to convey so much just by her expression even before the questions start flying. Once in the interview itself, you really get the sense of inner battle from her as she tries both to calm nerves and wrest control again from the clutches of panic fuelled anxiety. The interview panel too are highly believable, especially the sublime Mary Pat Gleason, as they gloriously and deliberately overplay their parts, giving an already stressful situation almost nightmarish qualities. The writing and direction by Anthony Garland coupled with such strong performances from all the cast create several incredibly powerful, almost distressing, moments as you watch the young woman trying to cope with the situation that she finds herself in, not least the scene in the Ladies room and the decision that she makes.

The cinematography and soundtrack add a great deal to the atmosphere to conjure up a real feeling of oppression, stress and discomfort. It is a beautifully staged and shot film. I loved the use of muted colours, the choice of crumbling bare plaster walls juxtaposed with gaudy gold frames for pictures and mirrors and the cheap foldaway chairs which squeaked with just the right note of irritation. The music was stunning, highlighting but never overpowering any scene and I loved the echoing footsteps at the start as she walks down the long hallway but the thing that worked best for me throughout the film were the silences. Silence is incredibly unnerving and it takes a very brave director to use it to such great effect.

Ophelia is the title of the film but it is never confirmed if it is the name of the main character or not, who is only referred to in the dialogue as Ms Galloway. I rather hope it’s not because it works for me on so many levels without being obvious. The name itself is elegant and gives an immediate mental profile of the character of the woman. However, when you add in the Shakespearean connotations of Ophelia from Hamlet and her rejection, humiliation and descent into madness, it just ties the whole story together beautifully and makes it the perfect title choice.

Image - London Flair PR
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