By Heinrich Domingo
Many of the short films today command popularity due to their ability to surprise the audience. They would begin with an exposition of a narrative and then later on provide a catch or a punch line in the latter part of the film. It is a faint attempt to make the audience go back to the plot, attempt to read it again, and hopefully appreciate the filmmaker’s attempt to make them think. Although such style invokes attention of the crowd, this treatment has been incessantly used that the viewing public no longer sees it effective.
A blind man (Melchior Beslon, also blind in real life) mistakenly believes that his struggling actress girlfriend (Natalie Portman) broke up with him. He then reflects on their relationship then revels their bittersweet journey. The performance of the two leading roles was one of the strengths of the film. Both were a perfect match to the characters they played. With a limited time given to them, they were able to realistically portray a young couple struggling to maintain a relationship.
Tom Tykwer’s True (2004) is different from the typical short films that we see. From the beginning, it is honest to its viewers and reveals all details possible. It does not lie to its audience just to have a tiny detail to surprise them in the end. Rather, we see a plot that is complete despite having a limited 12-minute time. The audience’s task is simple. They just have to follow the narrative and unravel how the characters came to be who they are now.
This short film is actually a part of a project entitled Paris, je t’aime. Here, renowned directors featured 20 districts (arrondissements) of Paris through 20 short films. Throughout the narration of True, the city became important in the mode of the story-telling. The lives of the two characters were intertwined with the lives of the city. The busy streets, train stations, and plazas are juxtaposed to the desolated room occupied by the male character. As the audience discovers the complexities of the relationship of the two leading roles, they also become familiar with the 10th district of Paris. Weaving together the storyline, the characters, and the setting is essential in better delivering the message of the film.
The film’s highlight is its brilliant depiction of time and space. Through a smooth transition of one bit to the other, True was able to deliver a complete albeit short narrative. This must be attributed to the laudable skill of the film editor. We see a fast-paced depiction of the relationship of the two characters and with the short span of time, we were able to see how their relationship formed, bloomed, and withered. Helpful to this film treatment is the well-written screenplay. Beslon’s narrative during the montage was a perfect way to describe rhythm, pattern and monotony in relationships. At the end of the short film, we were able to know the characters and the 10th district of Paris better.
Budding filmmakers have so much to learn in this short film. They are taught that short films need not follow a single formula in its story-telling. There are various ways of telling a narrative and it is just a matter of finding the most appropriate treatment. Also, True’s effectiveness does not only come from the laudable performance of its cast. Directing, film editing, and screenplay have so much to contribute in making this short film good.