Strange Says The Angel


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Strange Says The Angel will screen as part of the celebration of the Bill Douglas Award
"Shalimar Preuss has written, directed, something stunning."

It is not in the chatter on the radio, nor the end product of some never-quite-clear intra-riparian industry, nor in the paddled downstream swiftness that the consequences of drinking the water are outlined. It is not science or work or the combination that sheds light, but the words of a child.

Though children's words do not shed the only light - reflected from that water onto a tree, an inverse double-dapple, shade and projection.

Copy picture

Award winning at Glasgow's 2018 Short Film Festival, recipient of the Bill Douglas Award for international film. The jury praised it for its "languid, laconic" air. The first, certainly, the latter suggests a certain Spartan efficiency that was not much in evidence - it is classically gorgeous, even in tone suggestive of myth, latterly literally so, but it is not terse - bucolic, oneiric, arcadian, but it is more than a murderer's witticism - death is here, et in ego, and all that, but this, in both senses, is film as moving image.

There is a point in the credits for this film that resembles naught so much as an Annie Leibovitz spread for Vogue or Vanity Fair, figures in glamorously perfect not quite perfect hair, clothes that are just clothes but seem to invite subtitles like "model's own" or "price upon application", and a crisp white typeface (naught so common as 'font') giving the names of the cast. It's somewhere in the rarefied between art and advertising, fact after the fact. It's stunning, remarkable (I am so remarking), in a film that builds to a moment of staggering surprise, an instant of invention. It is a small detail in a film full of small details, a moment of magical realism in a film full of the magic of the real.

Every frame a stillness, every moment captivating, every sight a splendour. Perhaps not in total, but enough to last across those less painterly than functional. The whiter stones of the beach, the darker tones of the forest, a beautiful curve of contrast. That unspecified wet river labour, masked conversations in the front of the car: motherhood; mastectomy; macbook, titanium.

There is a green flash from a firework underwater, a funereal barge in birthday celebration, a space for ritual, rituals of space. Shalimar Preuss has written, directed, something stunning.

Filmed collaboratively with an amateur cast (the Iratchet family of Basque country) this is a mystery clad in perfect light. Its absolute grounding in the real makes its mysteries much more compelling - it's hard to draw lines without knowing where things have been written, but it, like much, does not matter. This is a stream of sub- and consciousness, a destination - the jury talked about its "internal and external travelogues" and that is perhaps the tone - tourism in the grand sense, Romantic far from the capital. A worthy winner in a strong field, and one whose flow will carry you along.

Reviewed on: 24 Mar 2018
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