Playing on the swings in the park wearing bright pink shorts that show my grazed knees and a white top with flowers and the words ‘summer time’ on it - this is my earliest memory. Except it isn’t. It’s a photo. The links between photos and memories, even false ones like mine, have been examined many times. In Faces without Visage, Hesam Rahmani uses photos and imagery to explore dementia in this homage to his father, who suffers from the disease.
The beginning of the film evokes pertinent questions about the strange impersonality of photos. While the family snaps are, in a way, deeply personal, they are also a reminder of a past moment that we, the present viewers, can never fully understand. Faces half turned away from the lens and the voicelessness of the subjects show that we can never really get the full picture.
The short goes on to explore the inability to recapture the past as the faces of the photos dissolve and dementia takes hold. This is where Rahmani’s film really comes into its own. Although some of the imagery is a little laboured - for example, a fading light bulb in place of his father’s face - the blank faces of his loved ones do well to convey the sense of loss experienced not just by those directly suffering from the disease, but also by their friends and family.
It could be argued that this film lies in an intersection between film and photography. Rahmani embellishes photos with cinematic effects, but does not go so far as to transform them into moving pictures. Thus, Faces without Visage is not only a touching homage to those suffering from dementia, but it also ventures into uncommon ground between two different forms.
‘Faces Without Visage’ was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2019.