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Caducea – The Man with the Bark Face [Christophe Mavroudis, Belgium, 2018]

Writer and director Christophe Mavroudis orchestrates a visually compelling and enticing story, illustrating pure excellence in respect to filmmaking and storytelling aspects in his film Caducea – The Man with the Bark Face. The short film manages to grip the audience with an interesting story from the very first frame; effectively introducing us using well-balanced expository narration through very distinguished, stylish images, foreshadowing the relationship between the main characters. This in turn not only introduces us to the main characters and their connection to each other, but also suggests a passing time frame, whilst offering snippets of information regarding the qualities present in the characters themselves.

The short film revolves around the story of a terminally ill, disfigured adopted son discovering who he is and his purpose in this world, leading to an interesting revelation in the final third explaining the truth behind his pain and suffering. What the film truly excels at, however, is the way it clearly conveys a deep and challenging message at the core of the story, whilst subverting the audience’s expectations. From the moment we are introduced to Catherine (played by Marie-Jeanne Maldague) following the opening prologue, the audience is afforded ample insight concerning her mannerisms and general approach to life within the first few frames.

The man with the bark face

The film is a beautifully stylised piece with excellent use of cinematography, framing and use of colour temperatures to clearly illustrate the message and tone of the story. Some aspects could be refined or altered slightly but, overall, this is a compelling and unique short film with a creative approach to a tale that centres on moral questions.

Mavroudis executes simple yet effective storytelling, with engaging characters and evocative cinematography. Vincent Delré, who portrays the titular character, is excellent and the costume design here is very unique, with David Herman’s art direction taking an interesting approach in order to create an intense, disturbing and intriguing character that leaves a lasting impression on the viewer. The look of the character, his history and the connotations behind the mask, all make for a very moving harrowing, well-developed story, clearly illustrating a wealth of talent amongst the film’s crew.

This re-watchable and thought-provoking short film is an exemplary piece of storytelling, deserving of substantial accolades.

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