Romans 12:20


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Romans 12:20
"Craig Conway brings Malky to swaggering life."

It's not entirely uncommon for a short film to later become a feature. Romans 12:20 has had such a fate. The same core trio made that translation: the brothers Shammasian, writer Geoff Thompson. Many elements are echoed in the feature, including the ending - and as such the recommendation is that scholars of film enjoy the feature first and then, if interested, consider this a part of the apocrypha, an ur-text from which something has been re-written.

It's a story framed by an interview, one predicated upon flashback and story-telling, reminiscence in table-thumping greasy spoon conversation, one that survives into the feature. It is hard not to draw comparisons, having seen both, but they do a disservice to what is a strong short film, one that is structurally sophisticated and anchored in a strong central performance. While the feature unfolds linearly, all impending progression to unknown stations, the short bounces back and forth in time, new angles on a layered confession. We start by knowing a man is dead, but the story of how he came there requires light that only Malky can shed.

Craig Conway brings Malky to swaggering life, a man large and small, white shirted tattooed menace in a caff, isolated and pale in a cell - or rather the interrogation room, a contrasting confessional, blue painted breezeblock and wood panelling and fretwork, looking but not understanding, understanding but not looking.

As Malky tells a story there are clarifications and confusions, a moment near the end that might be fate or the will of God, a moment earlier that is the act of man. Malky, and his fists, dispense something akin to justice, but there is more than the rule of law at play here.

The differences between the versions are distinct - setting, cast, thematic associations are closely paralleled but this is like a change of language. It's still the same good news, but an earlier draft. Both modern, even contemperaneous to each other, eight years is not as great a separation as between the Dead Sea and King James, but it's enough to have worked, and re-worked, to create something that is in its own way inspiring but will be greater, more awe-full, when reborn.

There is more explicit in this film than in the feature, but there are still hidden elements, features shall we say, of what this becomes on a larger canvas. The parallels between them are greater than the fact that they are both good, but that's enough to be starting with.

Reviewed on: 03 Jul 2017
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Romans 12:20 packshot
A nightclub doorman goes to confession to ask forgiveness for something he is about to do.

Director: Ludwig Shammasian, Paul Shammasian

Writer: Geoff Thompson

Starring: Craig Conway, James ellies, Lewis Slavin Sweeney

Year: 2008

Runtime: 27 minutes

Country: UK


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