An Image Through The Ceiling (Raghu Pratap, 2019)

A link to the film is here, for anyone who would like to see it! – https://youtu.be/_kZozp10GFo

With a brief three minute runtime, Raghu Pratap’s experimental short film An Image Through The Ceiling is a fascinating, disorienting exercise in the (very) short film category. With beautifully polished visuals, wonderful sound design (that may make you feel a little nauseous, just a pre-warning) and an enigmatic, abstract narrative, the film packs in a shocking amount of emotion into its fleeting runtime. The visuals, with a distinct focus on the haziness provided by using steam and smoke to obscure what you can see and these extreme, vibrant colours that seem to leap out of the screen in a way comparative to the likes of Brakhage’s hand painted work and Classical Hollywood technicolour melodramas (with quite the dark twist, of course), are stunning from start to finish, especially for a film made on no budget. 

There is really something subtly, insidiously, impacting and affecting to the colour switches here, from faded out greys and overwhelming on-screen darkness to these confrontational glowing reds and greens (there is one particular shot early on with a green tinting to it straight out of Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000) that looks magnificent), and it’s just a pleasure to see an up-and-coming director try something with this much confidence despite the fact that they’re making something with no dialogue, with no narrative and with no budget. The confidence is one that can really be felt emanating through every shot, through every jarring cut (intentionally jarring, it really adds to the discomfort created by the striking colours and disorienting sonics), this wonderfully self-assured direction so early on in a directorial career from Pratap here is great to see. 

Furthermore, the use of negative space in some shots and the subtle use of various lighting effects in the empty parts of the screen (anyone with OCD may have a meltdown at the example shot below, sorry) as well as the droning, clanging, repetitive score used in the opening is sharply belligerent are so brilliantly abrasive. Despite such a brief runtime, An Image Through The Ceiling is a promising short film that certainly has my ears perked up for whatever may come next from Pratap, and is one worth the time investment for the playfully abstract narrative and brooding tone alone. If I have to complain about something, I do wish that it were longer to allow these ominous feelings to float to the surface more than they already do, but Pratap has said that he is planning on creating something longer, so we will have to see what comes from that one, but as of right now, this is focused, pin-pointed experimental filmmaking, to a surprising degree considering that it is a debut film.

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