CLOSE-UP Culture’s short film watch returns with three excellent short films to look out for on the festival circuit.
Excuse Me, I Am Looking For The Ping-Pong Room And My Girlfriend
PICTURE a game of ping-pong between two relatively unskilled players. They knock the ball back and forth until they find a steady, almost hypnotic rhythm. In these moments, neither player is trying to win the point. They are just happy to gently return the ball and wait for their opponent to make a mistake.
The lead character of Bernhard Wenger’s short film Excuse Me, I Am Looking For The Ping-Pong Room and My Girlfriend is the embodiment of such ping-pong passivity. Aron (Rasmus Luthander) is a young man in his mid-20s who is all too happy to let life drift by without swinging his racket with an ounce of assertiveness.
This distracted passiveness is on full display when we are first introduced to Aron in the middle of an one-sided argument with his girlfriend Ida (Anna Åström). The two are supposed to be on a romantic spa break yet Aaron’s aimless gaze leads a frustrated Ida to storm off.
Wenger’s film then tracks Aaron round this modern spa setting as he limply searches for his missing girlfriend, the ping-pong room – and himself.
In its 24-minute runtime, Excuse Me, I Am Looking For The Ping-Pong Room and My Girlfriend leaves us plenty to unpack – from the art that draws Aron’s attention to the two male figures he interacts with. This marvellous piece of storytelling strikes up thoughts of Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure and sucks you in with layered meaning, a uniquely feeble male central character and superb acting.
Excuse Me, I Am Looking For The Ping-Pong Room and My Girlfriend is a short that shows Wenger is not only ready to transition into feature-length work, but that we should all be paying close attention to when he does. An arthouse favourite in the making.
Director: Bernhard Wenger
Producers: Florian Moses Bayer, Clara König and Bernhard Wenger
Music: Mario Fartacek
Cinematography: Albin Wildner
Editing: Rupert Höller
Art Direction: Antonio Semeraro
Cast: Rasmus Luthander, Elli Tringou, Anna Åström, Carl Achleitner
FOLLOWING the 2016 US Presidential Election, a number of Americans announced on social media that they were upping sticks and moving to Canada in an effort to escape the Trumpian future that awaited.
In Milda Baginskaite’s short film 7 Planets, a young girl looks up to the skies rather than across borders in the hope of starting afresh free from life’s equalities and prejudices.
Picked last in gym and ignored in the classroom, we watch as this girl (played at different ages by Poppy O’Brien, Martha Binns and Sue Moore) grows up while holding onto her dreams of leaving Earth to one of seven newly-discovered planets.
This is a surprisingly emotional lifetime journey of irrepressible female spirit that builds to a stirring finale. 7 Planets leaves us with the honest, bitter-sweet message: sometimes we have to fight an entire lifetime for what we believe in just future generations can reap the rewards.
Director: Milda Baginskaite
Producer: Pilar Cartró Benavides
Music: Ben Stanbridge
Cinematography: Cassie Stone
Cast: Sue Moore, Martha Binns, Poppy O’Brien
NINA Buxton’s Mwah is a crisply-made reminder of the chilling encounters women often have to endure with the opposite sex. This six-minute short follows a young girl (the captivating Bethany Whitmore) who is tailed by man in a car as she cycles home at night.
Despite the exaggeration and pomp we might associate with the word ‘mwah’, Buxton’s short thrives on a quiet, slow dread that creeps down suburban Australian streets in a way reminiscent of Ben Young’s impressive horror Hounds of Love. Only Buxton’s scene relies on a fixed camera and unnerving beeps rather than Young’s crawling visuals and 80s synth.
Never overplayed, Buxton allows the anxiety to build through tight close-ups of Whitmore’s face as the young actor generates more sympathy and concern in six minutes than some actors can in an entire feature. It is an approach that resonates deeply and underscores the terror and panic such situations can cause young women.
Brilliant and powerful work all round.
Director: Nina Buxton
Producers: Emma Roberts and Stephanie Westwood
Cinematography: Charles Alexander
Cast: Bethany Whitmore, Joshua Charles Dawe, Mayah Fredes