In Camera

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

In Camera
"By the end you might not only ask yourself if someone is losing their marbles but whose marbles, in fact, are the ones that are being lost." | Photo: Courtesy of KVIFF

“You’re it. Whatever it is. That’s you,” someone tells aspiring actor Aden (Nabhaan Rizwan). It’s a thought that echoes throughout a film that will present an increasingly slippery sense of ‘self’. By the end you might not only ask yourself if someone is losing their marbles but whose marbles, in fact, are the ones that are being lost.

Aden - or No 2408 as he is frequently referenced - is, as all actors must be, something of a blank slate. We see him performing a ‘reflection’ exercise with another wannabe, as he mirrors back her words, echoing her, “I’m embarrassed” with “You’re embarrassed” repeatedly. But what starts as a film with strong ties to the acting world, soon slips into a consideration of modern societal roles more generally, what they might or might not mean and who is responsible for their construction.

Aden is low on the pecking order. In his latest telly job he’s a body on a floor without even a costume change from his own clothes. Elsewhere, he’s seen in rooms wearing the same clothes as all the other hopefuls, being selected as though it’s a police line-up. In just one of the many unsettling things about this ambitious debut from Naqqash Khalid, home seems more performative than work. He shares a flat with an exhausted junior doctor named Bo (Rory Fleck Byrne), whose idle chat feels just one degree from normal in a way that is a deliberate move by Khalid. “Quite like this coffee,” he says, “It’s not too acidic.”

If Bo is worn down, their new housemate keyed up. Conrad (Amir El-Masry) is a stylist who has fully styled himself, or at least that’s how it seems. He wants Aden to be something too, his mate, maybe, a kindred spirit? To emphasise the performative nature of life Khalid also uses an idea that anyone who has seen Yorgos Lanthimos’ Alps will find familiar - as Aden takes a job pretending, subject to payment, to be a dead person for their mother.

There’s a nod to society’s racist microaggressions here, not least in some of the roles Aden is up for, but this is as much about the shaping of modern masculinity in an intensely neo-liberal capitaist society as anything else. Aden is happiest when he has a role to take on and it’s only gradually that he realises he needs to perform when he is not supposed to be playing someone else if he really wants to get on in the world. This is a film about facets and fictions, of hallucinatory moments that make you wonder if it’s not just an obvious dream of blood that’s a figment of someone’s imagination. These feelings are amplified by strong sound design by Paul Davies, with its angry bees and chattering sewing machines all adding to the tension. This is a jagged debut, that would rather you cut yourself on its pieces than slot them seamlessly together - and for that Khalid should be commended.

Reviewed on: 05 Jul 2023
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An actor struggles with the various roles he is juggling in life.

Director: Naqqash Kahlid

Writer: Naqqash Khalid

Starring: Nabhaan Rizwan, Amir El-Masry, Rory Fleck Byrne

Year: 2022

Runtime: 96 minutes


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