When you can’t sleep in the middle of the night, it’s easy to imagine that you are the last living person on earth. This particular kind of insomniac isolation is captured brilliantly in Marco Berton Scapinello’s short, Crossroads.
The film sees one man’s divorce and one woman’s addiction overlap within the confines of a car ride. Marc unsuccessfully tries to phone his ex-wife before picking up a sex worker (whose name we do not know) and driving to a quiet location. While there is the potential for a connection between two people in pain, both characters remain locked in their own alienation and eventually go their separate ways.
An absence of the warmth of human connection is palpable throughout the film. The dialogue between the two protagonists is minimal, and even the audience is fed very little about their lives. What is most notable is the coldness of their sexual encounter. Very much a commoditised transaction, the brief act is about as erotic as buying a meal deal and equally as depressing. This display of mutual vulnerability rather than sexuality provides a valuable balance against the many wannabe pornographic cinematic scenes involving sex workers. Moreover, although the lack of electricity doesn’t necessarily make for engaging viewing, it conveys the central theme of loneliness and is extremely effective in doing so.
Scapinello also makes an excellent use of space throughout the short. It is perhaps no coincidence that everything takes place within a car. As Marc drives through the chilly, metallic cityscape, he seals himself off from the world within a cold metal box. Likewise, the glimpse we get of the sex worker’s life is a picture of her son on her phone’s wallpaper. Nothing is said, and the complications of her personal life are confined within the inhuman borders of the screen. Both these images of self-inflicted incarceration help portray the helpless isolation of the characters.
One could say that the story feels a little empty, but this is the point. By allowing spaces for silence, Crossroads makes a much more poignant statement than many films that are overpopulated with dialogue. The combination of the almost robotic protagonists, the lifeless city and the clean, cold car perfectly capture the sense of eternal loneliness known to anyone who has ever lain awake for hours on end.
'Crossroads' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2019.