Monday, 24 May 2010


A middle-aged man looks longingly through a window, a stiletto in his hand. A black screen, accompanied by soaring post-rock guitars, occupies the screen for the next minute, before returning us to the man, who is now pottering around an empty events venue. It is this tantalisingly languid style which Lisandro Alonso uses in his short feature Fantasma. Words are scarcely uttered, if ever – the narrative comprises unnerving silences and pregnant pauses, told in rigid shots which invite the audience to take in the dimensions of each scene. The man eventually meets a young female student at the cinema, where the two are the only attendees to a screening which seems to show the man as some sort of explorer.

Naturally, a patience for long takes is crucial to get through Fantasma, but even then there is no solid guarantee of enjoyment. Like Tsai Ming-Liang’s Goodbye Dragon Inn and Abbas Kiarostami’s Shirin, Alonso gives us a literal cinematic experience, transforming the darkened screening room into a stage wherein performance is unadulterated by dialogue. The scenes surrounding this nucleus of reflection offer a slight narrative more led by possibility than certainty, and while the man is an interesting sight, his slick black hair belying his true age, his story just doesn’t feel interesting enough to pursue. The introduction of the student promises a connection between the two characters, but teasingly doesn’t deliver. It isn’t that Fantasma has little to say, rather that it is perhaps too subtle for its own good.

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