“I’m at the front door”
It’s hard to believe that Sid Bodalia‘s Aloneliness is a student film. After living in New Jersey and eventually attending the Maryland Institute College of Art for degrees in design and painting, the young artist moved all the way to Mumbai, India in order to pursue a career in filmmaking at Whistling Woods International. I can only imagine the wealth of talent and collaboration between departments and disciplines that allowed for such a stunning psychological thriller to look and feel as though made with studio backing and budget. Not to dismiss the script by Bodalia and co-writers Amal and Chirag Shah, but I could watch the film on mute and still be satisfied.
Esoteric and open to interpretation, the work follows the internal struggle within Sam Searman’s (Bhawani Shahi) devastated soul after the death of his wife Monica (Bhavna Bakshi). Lost on the night of their fifth anniversary, he fights through nightmares and anger manifesting into a search for her killer. Haunted by her angelic face and a voice looking for help, Sam can’t stop picturing the confident smile of Jeremy Fox (Kshitij Prasad) by her side. Recognizing his face and discovering a personal need to find and destroy him, Fox becomes the rabbit leading Sam down the dark hole of jealousy, rage, and memory—all culminating in a return to the tragic scene of his love’s death.
Expertly shot by Fian Bamji, Bodalia shows a real understanding of visual tension and mise-en-scéne to captivate in the sharp cuts and kinetic motion of his cinematographer’s dark palette. Randin Graves‘ score gets your pulse pounding through a chase scene and the climactic crosscutting of lustful passion with the final confrontation between men at Monica’s grave. Couple it with the energetic beats of DJ Tiesto‘s “Adagio for Strings” creating the backdrop for an intense club scene of red lights, writhing bodies, and the story’s players inside Sam’s mind and you’ve got yourself an impressive example of filmmaking’s collaborative process.
This sequence caught on the dance floor is amazing. Only a minute into the short, the atmosphere created to position Jeremy and Monica across the room from Sam draws you in to look through the mass of humanity and haze of lights. Cut to the music, a series of frames focusing on the neon flashes juxtapose against the jumping bodies shrouded in every color of the rainbow. But not to end up simply stock footage creating mood until his actors are seen, each character is revealed through the silhouettes of arms and heads in due course—first the transported detective who retrieved the wedding band found by Monica’s body and second Sam catching his wife and Jeremy laughing amidst the crowd.
Devoid of speech as a piercing note pulsates higher and higher, the introduction of this mystery man provides the start to a steady stream of jealous anger on behalf of Sam. Only Monica’s voice can silence the chaos and calm her husband’s mind so he may piece together the puzzle of her tragedy. He pursues the stranger through a misty forest and finds his love around every corner while wrestling with memories of unfounded accusations he laid before her feet. And throughout the film his wedding band is caught in the light, laughing at how its infinite bond was broken by petty paranoia and an inability to trust the one person who should be implicitly.
Love has broken Sam into a million pieces and his attempt to restore the shattered remains only creates more anger as the depressing realization of Monica’s demise is played back and the identity of Jeremy revealed. Stunning in its intricacies, we forgive the rather lifeless line readings and bask in the actors’ emotive expressions saying much more anyway. And just as the darkness engulfing their world crescendos, a cut to the stark, white room of Sam’s isolation replaces it. The ring—no longer a symbol of their union—is rendered into a reminder of what could have been and the weakness that allowed it all to fall apart.
courtesy of Sid Bodalia