“I Feel Like I Should Say Something Important” – Dusky Paradise (Raindance Film Festival Review)

Up for the Best Debut award at the 2016 Raindance film festival, Dusky Paradise follows the meandering missteps of Jacob, an apathetic young man who, following the death of his parents, relocates to Majorca (the stomping grounds of the film’s director). While there he stays in his parent’s old house and meets their neighbour, Matteo, a man who becomes a mentor of sorts to the disillusioned Jacob. What follows is an exploration of how one defines a life well lived, and what constitutes paradise for these two very different men.

It’s a deadpan comedy that takes the ‘dead’ part to its zenith. Played brilliantly by Kes Baxter, Jacob is a statuesque miserablist who spends the entire first half of the film shuffling in such a motionless manner that he looks not totally unlike a zombie himself. This is not to say however that Baxter’s performance as Jacob is lacking in depth. On the contrary, Baxter’s s ability to sustain such an apathetic state throughout is laudable, and the physical humour brought about through his awkward positioning is certainly one of the finest parts of this short feature. I was struck enough by this to jot down ‘this could work as a silent film!’ And yet while the static camera work complements Baxter’s ridged posture the verbal jokes tended to fall flat. At the screening I attended most of the jokes only warranting a brief snort or, on occasions, a deathly silence.

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With the zombified Jacob being the audiences guide through a sunny paradise one feels as though one is tripping on the very mundanity of life itself. Through the eyes of Jacob, the world is a very strange place indeed, strange in so far as it appears so unextraordinary. IN the second half of the film Jacob’s love interest posits that life is made up of 95% meaningless activities such as brushing your hair or brushing your teeth, and it’s the remaining 5% that makes life worth living. With moments like falling in love dancing with friends being brief moments worth all the struggle and worry. She thus posits that there’s is a whole, much wider world out there, beyond what Jacob calls paradise (which is, incidentally, sitting alone by a swimming pool doing nothing). In response to this philosophy of life the filmmakers appear to suggest that the mundanities of everyday and the tragedy of failure can be of great inspiration and pleasure to one if one approaches them in the correct way. Indeed, why settle for the 5% when you could enjoy the absurdity of the 95%? I came away from this film, if not wholly won over by it, at least entertained and inspired by its message. Life is what you make of it, paradise is whatever you call it.

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This neat film will surely please fans of the already now well established American genre of mumble-core, the camerawork of indie comedy virtuoso Wes Anderson, and the intelligentsia baiting dialogue of Noah Baumbach. However, while these are fine figureheads for young filmmakers to emulate, I found the presence of their influence to be a bit too on the nose at times. In particular, the shot of Jacob lying on a sunbed as the camera pulls out is near identical to the poster image of Sophia Coppola’s Somewhere (a film also very similar in terms of tone and style) As such, Dusky Paradise felt like it was trying too hard to recreate a collection of scenes from other films rather than taking new risks itself. The film’s director wrote the script aged just 22 and it shows all the signs of a young creative, ready and willing to question everything but struggling to land on any particular fresh or concrete answers. With that being said, the cast and crew’s achievement here should not be understated, as they have crafted an entertaining, thought provoking and beautifully shot film with a budget of just £18,000. And what the film does it does well… I just wish it hadn’t already been done before.

3/5

Dir: Gregory Kirchhoff

Scr: Gregory Kirchhoff

Cast: Kes Baxter, Charlotte Krenz, Martin Umbach

Prd: Gregory Kirchhoff

DOP: Dino von Wintersdorff

Muisc: Oh So Quiet

Country: Germany

Year: 2016

Run time: 76 mins

Dusky Paradise was shown at the 2016 Raindance Film Festival