FLOURISH Festival features new work by Saint John-based filmmaker Michael Mohan.
Saint John-based filmmaker Michael Mohan will debut his latest short film, Bad News, to Fredericton audiences as part of an upcoming FLOURISH Festival event on July 26 at the Shiftwork Studios. Shot in New Brunswick, Bad News is a beautiful and moving portrait of an undefined relationship told over the course of a single day.
The film is overtly simple in its form and structure (a two person cast and a running time of under ten minutes), yet Mohan was able to create and develop engaging characters who carry the story forward as we follow them through a day’s adventures.
“The nature of the main characters’ relationship is unspecific to lovers or friends, allowing for viewers to make their own decisions,” said Mohan. “I approached filming like a documentary, everything was shot over the course of one day, and we worked with a general theme and outline, instead of a script. All I needed to do was document the emotions that surfaced naturally.”
Part of what makes this film work is the lack of dialogue between the two characters. There is none. We can see them going about their day, engaging with each other and we can hear the sounds of their physical actions but never once do they speak. It’s an interesting approach to storytelling and an engaging device that forces the viewer to create and define both characters on their own.
“The choice to leave out dialogue was a deliberate one,” said Mohan. “Atmosphere is very important to the film’s narrative. I needed to create a space where the viewer felt tension between the characters, and silence felt like the most direct way of doing this. You learn a lot about the characters through their gestures and the way they look at each other, and for this story in particular, it is the things that go unsaid that are the most telling.”
There is an underlying theme of isolation that accompanies the two characters throughout the story. Through filming locations, the film’s soundtrack and the way the two characters interact with one another, Mohan portrays a strained relationship, possibly the result of some unspoken a past event or experience. It’s not really clear, but that’s part of what makes the Bad News such an engaging and enjoyable piece of art.
“In the film, the characters have realized what they have together is ending,” he said. “They are confused, frustrated, terrified and exhausted of each other. In a sense, the film is set during the calm before the storm, a time shortly before the characters will likely continue their lives separately from one another. An initial feeling of independence is now weary; the characters are at the point where they realize they will soon be without a person that inevitably helped to define them, in some form or another. It is an isolating experience for both of them, regardless if the decision to split is in their best interest as individuals or in the best interest of love.”