Short Films: Fugue (2017) - Reviewed

The loss of a loved one, particularly in an unexpected way is a haunting experience whose repercussions ripple through our combined realities in interesting and sometimes terrifying ways. Grief, as a concept is a stalwart foe, anchoring itself to the essence of the soul and refusing to surrender purchase. Steven Adam Renkovish's short film Fugue is a chilling exploration of the aftermath of bereavement. Featuring a singular performance, rustic visuals, and an unrelenting air of duress, this is a familiar and eerily dangerous approach to a popular theme. 

Lilith struggles with the loss of a loved one. Her woe manifests itself in unexpected, surreal ways that begin to plague her day to day existence, threatening to undo both her health and sanity forever. Renkovish's script takes a minimalist approach, focusing on Brittany Renee Smith's Lilith as she wanders a desolate forest, an ominous chamber, and an ordinary house looking for answers to her loved one's departure. The writing is particularly strong, due to Renkovish's reluctant approach to the material. This is a careful story about delicate matters of the heart and mind that have clearly been gestating within the film's creator for some time, and the result is a slow, gentle submersion in the stygian depths of sorrow. Smith tackles her lines with a refreshing amount of candor, taking what could have easily been an overacted role and making it a breathing entity to which the viewer is naturally drawn. 

The cinematography has a rustic, almost ritualistic presentation, featuring uncomfortable close ups of Lilith, framed in shadowy interiors and barren natural locales to remind the viewer that her condition is inescapable. There are clues strewn throughout that hint at Lilith's loss, but Fugue's strength is that the unbearable atmosphere could be applied to any concept, person, or object. What has been taken is not of concern so much as the devastation left in its sudden and irreparable wake. Dreary lighting gives way to pulsing candlelight in the final few minutes as Litlith's torment begins to spin towards the darkest of summations, heightened by hair raising sound design by Bradley Andrew. As Lilith approaches oblivion, even the most mundane sounds, such as a sliding door, become harbingers of the nightmares that have been watching from afar, now content to descend as their subject contemplates eternal forfeiture.

David C. Wright, Arianna Cunningham, and Contac designed Fugue's bewitching score, a brooding convergence of tense melodies that swirl without and within Renkovish's haunted house of the mind. Coming soon to the festival circuit, Fugue is an entrancing exploration of emotions that skirts the line between psychological horror and philosophical upheaval made possible by its architect's patient understanding of its subject matter.

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Kyle Jonathan