From the opening notes of Alberto Bellavia's sparse, emotionally vulnerable score for Janusz Madej's 17-minute short film Blue Glass, it becomes apparent that this film is different, even for the always unpredictable Madej, and that we are in store for a cinematic journey that will challenge both our hearts and our minds.
Adam (Marcel Romeijn) has spent a decade trying to come to terms with his wife Alice's comatose condition. When a pioneering doctor (Hank Botwinik) makes an unusual offer that will help him in his grieving process, Adam agrees to it.
What happens when three becomes a crowd?
Seemingly lost in the illusion of reality, it must be eventually asked: "How far down does the rabbit hole go?"
Filmed with an emphasis on the power of visual storytelling and exposition by image, Blue Glass is a visual feast for the eyes that tells its story as much within the film's silences as when dialogue is spoken. It's a film where every little thing is meaningful and draws us in both emotionally and intellectually.
It helps, of course, that Blue Glass is cast sublimely. Marcel Romeijn is introduced to us rather extraordinarily with a visual presentation that immerses us in his world yet also reveals very little of what is yet to come. Romeijn wears a sort of fatigue on his face, yet it's mysterious fatigue that only offers hints of exposition and meaning until the time is right.
Henrietta Bryant, who co-wrote the script with Madej, carries a dual role within the film that is essential to its success and meaning and she pulls it off quite beautifully. She's a mystery throughout, at times rather suspenseful and other times offering just a glimpse into a world that exists somewhere between truth and illusion. As the doctor in question, Hank Botwinik is absolutely mesmerizing with a closing scene that is simply perfection.
Lensing by Joas Burggraaf and Alessandro Felici brings the story vividly to life by perfectly balancing the film's humanity and sci-fi elements. There's surrealism constantly at work here, an unknowing of what is real and what is fantasy and this is masterfully captured through the film's claustrophobic structure. Often without a word spoken, we come to realize what a character is thinking or feeling or experiencing solely through the power of the visual storytelling.
Credit must also be given to Pavle Mihalic for exceptional production design that is simple yet, once again, never less than meaningful down to the most basic touch. Madej's own editing work allows just the right moments to linger and for passing moments to be essential pieces of all that unfolds.
Blue Glass is set for an unofficial screening in Amsterdam at Lab 111 on January 23rd at 9 pm in advance of what should be yet another successful festival run for Madej, an always interesting filmmaker who has once again created a compelling and thought-provoking cinematic experience.
For more information on Blue Grass, be sure to visit the film's Facebook page linked to in the credits. If you get a chance to check it out at a festival near you, definitely take it.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic