Cast: Harshit Dang, Emeara
A beach is nature’s most beguiling love story. It is impossibly romantic: Water meets earth and the sound of their union is soothing and dramatic. It is also irrevocably tragic: Water leaves earth, forming imprints and indentations in the sands of their time. There is both love and loss, surge and heartbreak, visual poetry and aural nostalgia. Filmmaker-actress Emeara designs her somewhat experimental six-minute short Photograph in a way that extends the emotional dichotomy of this environment to the humans occupying it. There are no words spoken – there’s just music, memories and the thematic expression of a relationship’s entire life-cycle unravelling at the cusp of an ocean.
The first minute is a snapshot of happy moments; water meets earth, and girl laughs, lives, banters and loves with boy. This transitions to a gloomy overcast day on which the two, while looking into the horizon, are a little older, no wiser, and mindful of the irreversible distance between them. Water is leaving earth here, and the filmmaker, who is also the girl in the film, magnifies this portion into a mournful memory. Not unlike a mating dance (specifically the one so lyrically captured in the documentary, March of the Penguins), we see a “breakup dance” on the beach – an uncoupling of souls set to a Gravity-like musical rhythm that defines the visual edit rather than vice versa. It’s perhaps why the music isn’t original, because it’s the piece that evokes the emotion and not the other way around. This might have been a limitation for, say, a feature-length film or an elaborately choreographed song, but a short has the advantage of advertising intangible feelings. It’s why shots of a pocket-watch buried in the sand and a photograph being washed away feel a bit heavy-handed and unnecessary, given the film’s metaphysical leap of faith.
One can sense the creator saying, or at least hoping to say: Beneath all the bitterness and cacophonic chaos of being torn apart, this is the audiovisual essence of what pain really feels like. It’s personal, and it’s a language not everyone is expected to get. It’s easy to dismiss such films as “abstract” and “pretentious” these days, but there is something about Photograph that resonates for the way it brandishes a hopelessly dreamy gaze….of a nightmare. Coupling is messy, but we tend to interpret it as beautiful and even artful in hindsight. We tend to remember the feeling of togetherness rather than the actual point of it. The spirit of this retrospective sadness is what shorts like Photograph attempt to capture. It depends on the lens, and the light – of both the person and the skies.