REVIEW: Rope [2010]

“Rope, Suit, Park, Hang”

The beauty of short films from the comfort of your home is the ability to rewatch them with ease. While I’d love to see everything in the confines of a darkened theatre, the image blown up to an overwhelming size so that the cinematography can engulf you, the under ten minute family of cinema doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to those conditions. With so little time to tell its story, the short film must pack in detail upon detail, each frame meticulously composed to show the audience exactly what they need to enter the world and comprehend the actions playing out.

Ian Clay’s Rope is no different. A deliberate four-minutes of voiceover juxtaposed with a memorable and affecting score by José Villalobos layered over a man, (played by Jason Britt), in the woods—lost and relegated to taking his own life—this film begs for precise attention. I’ll admit, after my first go-round, I appreciated the look of the work, the acting, the music, and the economy of information, but I didn’t quite know what was happening. Why is this man ‘crushed by the unbearable weight of the way things are’ as the plotline shares? What is the significance of needing time to be just right, peering at his watch when the nerves of waiting prove daunting? Don’t we all have something to live for?

And then I went back to watch it again. As soon as Britt’s voice began to speak, I could feel the click of understanding as my internal switch flipped. Those first moments in his car are crucial to going on the journey to oblivion set forth. It was a phone that drove him to the edge of existence, words over a wire bombarding him in sequence to share the news no one ever prepares to hear. You’ll put the pieces together later on when, choked up, Britt recalls something broken—shattered remnants of his life forever gone; love taken without notice, so quickly that the world assumes business will go on as usual. His entire being has been planned out, written, checked, and crossed off his daily planner. Ritualized and exacting. One can deal with a canceled meeting or a forgetful client, but this … no one expects an emptiness to rest where once was life.

I’d be doing Clay’s well-crafted script a disservice by going into any more detail, risking to ruin the feeling of heartbroken epiphany I discovered in watching the film devoid of preconceptions. His cuts break in staccato with the score—a character in itself, especially with its well timed rests once Britt’s mantra is tripped over by the discovery of a visitor watching—and the frame’s depth of field keeps what’s crucial in focus while leaves or obstacles between remain blurred. There is always an obstruction in the corner, covering a piece of the activity beyond, whether foliage, a tree branch, or the actor’s own shoulder and head bent over, hands working with purpose. And Britt himself is fantastic, doing it all with facial expressions, blinking eyes, and twitching cheeks, the voiceover expounding on the actions even though I think it could work silently as well.

Just remember to pay close attention to what’s onscreen while viewing. Look at the planner for completed tasks or ones that will never be; take notice of the disjointed words, relayed as though in a Beat poem, more coherent and telling than initially assumed; and know what is in focus and what is not. The watch counts down to 10:00, but once it finally arrives, you’ll see that while the clock becomes a blur of color, something else has takes over as Britt’s main focal point. Hope exists in every second; it’s a matter of letting the pain go long enough to see it. Life is all around us.

Rope 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

View the film on The Doorpost like I did by clicking here.

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