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London Film Festival 2018: Monelle, Solar Walk, Dreamaway

A shot rings out, sharp and shrill, violent, the reverberation minimal. An image accompanies it, a flash of light illuminating a scene - placid, desolate, eerie, threatening. A narrative may unfold, or it may not - what these images convey in such a presentation is never delineated, but what they evoke is a sense of bizarre, indistinct terror. How long between these brief, often motionless frames? How many since this story began? It's hard to tell. Diego Marcon's Monelle shocks the viewer with each new scene, relieves them with a return to black, teases them with anticipation whether in interest or in fear. And much as these pictures may appear as they might have were they held for 10 solid minutes each, their meaning is not merely affected but fundamentally altered by Marcon's snapshot approach; whatever it is one keeps hearing in the background questions one's interpretation of the film's chronology, and the fearful disorientation develops into a fully-formed immersive experience. Perhaps there is scope for distraction, as an accident or as an escape, but unwavering attention is rewarded in these frightening few minutes.

Reka Bucsi's Solar Walk is no clearer upon rumination, but infinitely clearer in its execution of albeit nonsensical ideas. This is meaningless order butting heads with meaningful disorder, to charming effect. It's ingeniously inventive, and in apparent service only of its own gleeful invention, establishing an illogical internal logic within an illogical framework. Crude animation sits atop a cosmic backdrop, detail sits alongside blank panels of solid colour, interest wanes as it becomes evident that Bucsi has nowhere new to take her film, despite traversing new ground with each and every motion in any and every direction. This is, however, an enormously charming short, indescribably evoking fully my autistic affinity for inanimate objects. Nothing about Solar Walk ought to be describable.

Johanna Domke and Marouan Omara's Dreamaway is specifically rooted in something much more tangible, yet somehow much less real. Employees at deserted resorts in Egypt's Sharm El Sheikh, blighted by a single terrorist incident not three years ago and ever since abandoned by many Western tourists who once comprised this tourism-dependent city's premier demographic, committedly but despondently tend to absent clientele and ponder a future that seems barely to exist for them. This is an ever-familiar failure to accommodate the needs of younger generations in a world modernizing in ways hitherto unconsidered by society. Dreamaway is inevitably tinged in every shot and every scene with a creeping sadness, the draining emotional impact of having to keep toeing a line that's broken at both ends and leading nowhere. Denial masquerades as resilience, dreams as hopes, cheap chintz as glossy glamour - the whole enterprise feels throttled by the ironies that comprise its only sense of identity, one that these young employees seem trapped within, physically bound as they are by mountains, sky and sea. They'll dream their lives away in this rotting, forgotten place; as long as someone's still dancing, maybe the party's not over after all!

You can see Monelle, Solar Walk and Dreamaway at the BFI London Film Festival from the 10th to the 21st of October; Monelle screens in the short film programme Performing Invisibility, and Solar Walk in Amazing and Astounding, and both will compete for the Short Film Award.

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