Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fait d'Hiver (Gridlock)

Fait d'Hiver (Gridlock)
Directed by Dirk Belien, Written by Johan Verschueren
7:28 min; 2003
Academy Award Nominee 2003: Best Live Action Short Film

Some of the most successful short comedy films act as single joke. The best short comedies stay within a ten-minute running time and work as a build up to a solid punch line. Fait d’Hiver (Gridlock) works in that it could be a joke told in a bar and the attention to detail and changing tone levels make it worthy of an Academy Award Nomination.

Starting on a funny note with a frustrated man stuck in traffic in a blizzard works perfectly as a set-up for learning about the cheating wife. But Dirk Belien’s choice to swing the film to a more serious tone throws the audience into a confused state. It’s unclear exactly where the film is going and a seemingly funny film quickly turns sinister. The dark and ominous score along with the serious approach to the wife’s reaction and her death could have easily been done in a lighter context but would have watered down the punch line.

Fait d’Hiver is an effective short in that it engages the viewer to speculate about all of the possible outcomes in only seven minutes. Despite its dark tone throughout the middle, the epiphany by the main character works as an uneasy yet amusing relief to situation. Although the ending ties the film together well, it still remains ambiguous enough to remain in the viewer’s mind to continue putting the pieces together (even though the English song at the end provides more than enough exposition for the entire film).

Looking at foreign language shorts it is easy to come across many that are entertaining but sometimes it feels like a look into an entirely foreign world. Despite the Dutch language spoken in Fait d’Hiver, Belien’s film works in its accessibility beyond the Belgium world. In some respects it makes it more amusing and entertaining to be reminded of the similarities in relationships, marriages, rush hour, and jealousy that transcend any language barrier.

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