Directed by David Leidy | Review by Nora Jaenicke
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith dark themes, crime and thrills at its core and morally ambiguous characters including a femme fatale and doomed heroes, neo-noir films are full of style and Faded Love by David Leidy certainly gives this genre full justice. The filmmaker is unafraid to delve into the murky territory and to address head-on dark subjects.
The acting, directing, script editing and cinematography are uniformly well executed in a short film that feels half real and half dream-like. An aspect that further emphasizes these elements, as well as the suspended nature of the film, is the music score– given by how well it suits the visuals. It didn’t just accompany the film, it created its own reality, and as a viewer one feels twice as invested precisely because of this reason. From the very beginning of the film the visuals and the music contribute to a sense that something sinister is lurking behind the surface of what we see: A sense that nothing is ever what it seems and that in order to grasp the truth, the protagonist will have to dive deeper into her own psyche, into what up until now feels like a labyrinth of smoke and mirrors.
As the story unfolds, we follow the woman, quite literally, as she jogs around a fountain, initially caught between two mindsets: To accept and continue with the treatment that her abusive therapist is forcing her to undergo or to liberate herself and fight back.
Right from the start, she is having destabilizing memories and intrusive flashbacks: Hints of a narrative that she can’t quite grasp, which have a different overall tonality from the present setting. The more we are given access to her inner, vulnerable self, the place where her childhood memories reside, the sweeter the music becomes – the colors acquiring a nostalgic sepia-like tone. Right after diving into the depth of her subconscious we meet her therapist, a charismatic yet dominant man. “Flooding is the term. We flood your fears in order to get rid of them!”, is the treatment he proposes, in a voice tone too suave not to suggest hidden intentions. He is a con man who has probably talked endlessly about wanting to improve her mental health and that his are only the best intentions; meanwhile he is manipulating her and damaging her in the first place. What follows is a very graphic sex scene in order to execute the seemingly therapeutic technique.
The lighting ranges from blueish to purple tonalities and the overall scene is extremely uncomfortable to watch. The shots fade into each other, further evoking the protagonist’s traumatic experience: Now it feels as if the woman is removed from herself, the mark of the smeared lipstick, as a perfect symbol for the violence just witnessed. Immediately after watching this brutal scene, we follow her on a quest moving through what seems like a dreamlike setting – the aesthetics abstracted and stylized, creating the perfect place for the plotting of a bitter revenge.
Taut and full of noiresque flourishes Faded Love never wastes a second. The violence smoothly interwoves with a strong sexual tension, which creates a unique atmosphere.
The film gives us great insight into the protagonist’s inner torment and the ending sheds light onto yet another aspect of the woman’s complex personality, never portraying her as a one-dimensional victim but always leaving room for ambiguity. While we are being offered a gloomy worldview with notions of good and evil muddied, ultimately no crime can go unpunished.
All in all, Faded Love is a brutal and slick short film with great visual flair. A film that will mostly appeal to the fans of the dark and dangerous. An erotic and deeply unsettling exploration of manipulation mixed with the all too human thirst for revenge.
Nora is currently in post-production of one more short film -Joyce, also a short film version of a feature that she is hoping to make: A mosaic of interrelated stories that explore the American Dream and the plight of immigrants in New York City. She is an avid traveler, continuing to explore the world and telling stories about it, whenever she gets a chance.