Abaddon [Meriem Rebai, Germany, 2019]
'Abaddon' is a Hebrew word referring to both a place of destruction and an angel of the abyss. The opening of Abaddon in the clean, crisp psychiatrist’s office initially seems as far away from this concept as possible. However, the orderliness is soon disrupted when Alex begins his session. As the film progresses, perfection slides into madness as the roles of Dr and patient become ever more blurred.
What makes this film so arresting is the acting. The setup - that is, twenty minutes of two people having a conversation - has the potential to be incredibly slow. However, the intensity both Lutz Blochberger and Jaime Ferkic bring to the screen makes it almost impossible to look away. The skill of both actors is enough to hold the viewers’ attention, so the attention seeking soundtrack seems a little superfluous. Further to this, at times the tinkling tunes are jarringly childish against the dark material they accompany. While the intention behind this may be to make the scenes even more unsettling, it could have been more effective to pair back the effects and let the gripping acting take centre stage.
It becomes clear that Alex is not the only person suffering in the room, and the film builds to a climatic outburst of madness and grief. Although this made for an interesting turn, it would probably have been better to cover less in more depth. As with many short films, Abaddon perhaps tries to do too much too quickly, and so loses some of impact it has the potential to have.
The final twist is nicely surprising, shunting the genre from a psychological drama to a supernatural thriller in the last second. While Abaddon would have benefitted from a ‘less is more’ approach, the fine acting and cleverly laid twists make it an interesting watch, as well as a showcase of Meriem Rebai’s budding directorial talent.
'Abaddon' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2019.