Bite Me! [Sergei Safiullin, USA, 2019]
Eighty calls will have been made to domestic violence hotlines across the US in the same time it takes to watch Bite Me! This is a stark fact communicated in the final intertitle of the film, an important statement that contextualises the action we see before it. The film is shot from the point of view of a victim of domestic abuse, (the angles disturbingly low), as director Sergei Safiullin effectively provides the audience with an unmercifully brutal experience.
The abuser is a violent father who remonstrates the victim in a multitude of demeaning and horrific ways, both verbally and physically. The film asks the audience how far they would be pushed before reaching breaking point and forced to fight back? There is a lot is working for this film, especially the actor playing the abusive patriarch, referred to only as Father. Actor Shaun Fraser gives the audience a genuinely terrifying and unforgivable performance, his character unleashing rage in a way that is unjustified and misdirected.
The cinematography is undoubtedly a highlight. The camera’s low and angular positioning makes the father seem even more threatening and dominant over the victim as he towers over them. This stays consistent throughout the story and gives the short film a unique visual language.
The lighting is especially effective here, the only source of light coming from outside, giving little respite from the grim and dark interior, helping to convey the misery of the situation. This ultimately changes during the climax of the film, when the point of view changes to the father’s, after the mother returns home and immediately springs to the victim’s and her own defence. The lighting here becomes brighter and seems more optimistic. However, a red tint works to signify the father’s residual anger and ultimate fate.
The film’s sound design is impressive too, and a particular highlight of the film. The focus of the sound is on the characters themselves – crying, shouting, speaking and reacting – with minimal atmospheric sound, making the action every bit more poignant and impactful.
Bite Me! is an ambitious film that places the audience firmly in the seat of a domestic abuse victim, challenging us to understand the various degrees to which this can be inflicted. The sound design and cinematography create a brutal atmosphere in which the actors deliver fantastic performances.
‘Bite Me!’ was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2020.