FOR FILMS IN CHARGE OF CHANGE
directed by Patrick Nicholls
In the wake of recent political and diplomatic changes all throughout the world, feelings of uncertainty and instability are rampant. The short Still Dark deals with exactly this issue. Following Brexit, the UK has been witnessing a growing atmosphere of doubt and helplessness, together with a spike in hate crimes, all channeled by the fear media instills. Through the mind and actions of a young man living in London, this psychological thriller faces the consequences of potentially life-changing diplomatic and ideological decisions.
The film follows the emotional turmoil and decline of a young man living in a council flat in East London. Run-down and poorly furnished, his flat bears the marks of the political context he lives in. His walls, windows and floors are covered in torn pieces of newspapers that gradually begin to haunt him.
The flat’s suffocating atmosphere is doubled by the character’s own haunted mind. The articles and news he is surrounded by gradually start to penetrate his vulnerable judgement. The fogginess enclosing his mind is at times disrupted by flashes of political and societal turmoil. Eventually, the young man becomes overpowered by paranoia and fear and commits an extreme act.
The perpetuating state of darkness the character descents into is an accurate metaphor for the current social and political instability and decline. Likewise, the media contributes to instilling a sense of fear and paranoia in people that eventually motivate them to carry out horrific plans. Despite the use of metaphors, Still Dark feels oddly obvious and stereotypical at times. For one, the portrayal of a muslim man is as clichéd as it gets, since he is depicted wearing a fez and a kaftan. In addition, the choice of covering up the walls and windows with newspapers is useless at the least. Director Patrick Nicholls’ decision of serving almost all mysteries up on a plate deprives the viewers of the pleasure of figuring them out by themselves.
Nonetheless, the cinematography and editing are successful in reflecting both the inner battle and the suffocating context. The colorization follows the young man’s emotional state, although it becomes overly explanatory towards the end. The wide angles accurately paint a tense atmosphere, while the close-ups contribute to a better understanding of the character’s state of mind.
In the end, Still Dark is a haunting and compelling psychological thriller that brings into focus issues that affect us on a large scale. Despite the overly self-explanatory content, the film’s intention is noble at the least. The director’s thorough exploration of current social, psychological and political phenomenon can only anticipate unusually compelling future works.