Sunday, April 22, 2007

Now You See Me, Now You Don't (2006)

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t is the first short film from Hungarian commercial director/writer Attila Szasz that seamlessly blends a family drama with a supernatural twist. This Hungarian film may only be 30 minutes long, but it blends these two genres to create a chilling story.

A mother prepares dinner at home while her young son Alex plays around the house. Dad should be coming back home from the lab today, where he has finally perfected a secret experiment that renders mice invisible. When he arrives home, he has brought his experiment with him. He acts detached and stern around his wife and child. His wife tries to explain that Alex has been acting up again and isn’t talking to her, but the husband just doesn’t seem to care. The next day, Alex appears to be invisible…has he been turned invisible by his father’s experiment? Or is there another explanation?

I was very impressed by this style and quality of this short Hungarian film. The direction by Szasz is impeccable and he creates a lonely, isolated world within the walls of the family’s home. He crafts some truly breathtaking shots, using natural white light and the starkness of the house to create a feeling of emptiness that mirrors the couple’s relationship. The twist at the end was very well-done, and while I suspected it, I was sucked right into the story and just had to see how it turned out.

The character development is superb, and we know who these people are right away. The mother of Alex loves her husband and wished he was home more. She doesn’t seem to pay very much attention to Alex, but it is obvious she cares deeply for him. The father is a workaholic, putting his work before his family and doesn’t spend that much time with them. He comes across as very stern and even cruel. Alex is just child caught between his parents who are struggling with their marriage. This was a very character-driven film, and the actors pull off their roles effortlessly.

The three actors in the film, Dora Letay as the mom, Erno Fekete as the dad, and Vitez Abraham as Alex, deliver pitch-perfect performances. The family drama aspect of the film showcases the family going through many different emotions – joy, despair, hopelessness, frustration, anger, confusion, etc. – while the supernatural aspect lets them show terror and absolute horror. The spectrum of emotions each of them goes through is impressive, and the fact that they all pull these emotions off at the drop of a hat is even more impressive.

This is a slow, psychologically-driven character drama, so don’t expect gore and guts. It is very subtle, though the twist at the end is pretty shocking. If you enjoy slow-building suspense films coupled with family drama, check out Now You See Me… If you’re after blood ‘n’ guts, skip it.

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t may be only 30 minutes long, but it delivers the perfect amount of character development, atmosphere, thrills and chills – more than some films three times its length deliver.

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