Richard Marx’s surrealist tale, Absence, follows Lena, a woman enraptured by the moon and stars, and enraged by the murder of her husband by her lover. What follows is a story of a woman stuck in grief and confusion as she considers her feelings. After her husband’s murder, Lena trudges toward the masked killer, attacks him until she is spent, and the attacker leaves Lena to her grief. A combination of Anna Avramenko’s subtle movements portraying contemplation and a perfectly timed take, convey that this was an inside job.
The cast’s flawlessly executed choreography eases the world into a surrealist space. Once in their house, the pacing along with all of the cast members’ performances give life to re-created events that look to bring us into Lena’s thoughts and motivations. From a home invasion, a family meeting revealing the attacker as the husband’s brother, to a wake, the film moves though well-crafted set pieces, but the stories presented in these scenes never provide pathways into these people. With almost no character exploration and the few quiet moments with our lead not going deep enough to build a gripping story, Absence feels more of a filmed stage play than a movie. Remaining experimental, the characters remain unknown and the film difficult to connect with.
Absence also feels like two films in one, which makes Lena’s journey through her emotions never actually start. With the first shots being of space, then a neon glowing moon, Lena’s preoccupation with the cosmos, an otherworldly connection or existentialist tale seems likely. But it’s not until the near end that these elements come back into the action. An image of the moon glowing fiercely, centred in the middle of an ink spillage fills the screen right before Lena’s image distorts, as the house is falling. As her dream, and the film come to an end, the moon reappears, and Lena looks at it as if this night never happened, as if her connection to it was what was important. It’s confusing – we never actually know what Lena’s journey is, and any sense of relatability is indeed absent.
'Absence' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2021.