From Singin’ in the Rain [Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, USA, 1952] to the slightly less iconic but equally drenched finale of Step Up 2: The Streets [Jon M. Chu, USA, 2008], rain and dance have been paired together throughout cinema history. In Indignance, Chen Jiexiao directs and stars in his own homage to this tradition.
The premise seems to be little more than a man dancing in the rain. Jiexiao uses several interesting camera angles, for example, below the flooded surface, but unfortunately this is the only noteworthy part of this film.
First of all, Jiexiao does not have the athletic skills to pull off a short film purely based on dance. Although he does throw some shapes that are a bit more out there than you would find on your standard Saturday night, their execution doesn’t quite work. For example, after doing a one-second worm, we then see the protagonist’s knee fall to the floor to steady him.
Moreover, careless filming mars the few turns and cartwheels that he does do. The camera is often handheld and unsteady and nearly always obscured by raindrops. Although it could be argued that this enhances the effect of the rain, it is used so repetitively that it serves to distract from both the scenery and the action rather than add to it. On top of this, Jiexiao leaves long shots lingering on his feet and toes for a disturbing amount of time. It is unclear what these are trying to achieve, as they are neither interesting nor particularly pleasant.
Finally, there is no discernable idea that the dance is supposed to put across to us. While a song about heartbreak and crying in the rain begins to play at the end, it is too clichéd and too insubstantial to make the short meaningful. See French choreographer and acrobat Yoann Bourgeois’s five-minute film to see how this can be done better. With neither the storyline nor the skills to sustain a short film, Indignance is more of a faltering flop than a freestyle flip.
'Indignance' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2020.