Short Films: Accidence (2018) - Reviewed

Making its world premiere at the 68th Annual Berlin International Film Festival is the short feature Accidence from writer-directors Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, and Galen Johnson. The short, which runs just under 10 minutes, is one continuous shot of life in an apartment complex. The initial shot is of a man wrapped in bandages from head to toe, his head bloodied, a section of the railing is broken away with crime scene tape drifting in the wind. The street noise that proceeds this first image is accompanied by a piece of music, which starts out in a worn-out way as if a record or a tape have been played once too often. 

As the camera pulls back, two detectives show up on the man’s patio and though we are not treated to their conversation, we get the feeling that this scene has played out numerous times. From the pull back, the entire complex can be seen expanding our understanding of the environment. More importantly, within each section of the apartment, activities can be seen, either on a patio or through windows; no one section is the same. Coincidentally, the camera pans right to show the setting sun behind the apartment complex before settling in on the original apartment unit. 

As the camera pulled back from the scene of the crime, the whole of the apartment complex becomes visible. I immediately took in the whole environment, which offers so much more about life in this apartment complex. Yet, my eyes focused on the original unit, a light on the patio acting as a beacon. 

As the story goes on, your eyes will drift to each patio; no one experience is the same: a couple having dinner, someone getting beaten up in another apartment. Two flights of stairs are full of people chasing one another, some of them shadows obscured by lights in the stairwells. A birthday party is going on as if nothing else in the world matters; each instance is unique, but is a clue to the story. Each frame has something unique and I’m smiling at myself even as I write this because no one experience is going to be the same. No matter which frame you choose to focus on, you will get something different out of each viewing. 

The unique environment that Mr. Maddin and Messrs. Johnson created within a 10 - minute time frame and within one overarching shot is absolutely breathtaking. Comprised of a sound mix, with different conversations and activities along with the street noise, reminds us of being in a shared space, the constant motion of the camera to point out different aspects is just as unique as each event happening within the frame. The ending is just as abrupt as the beginning, but that serves the purpose of framing the story out, something that I appreciated. It reminded me of life in my own apartment. 

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-Ben Cahlamer