In Review: Still (Dir. Abhijeet Dey, 2021)

If you wish to see the film, look below:

I spoke with Abhijeet Day earlier in the year when we discussed his filmmaking process, particularly the more experimental parts that stuck out to me. I was also interested in how such wide ranging inspirations (from Bob Dylan to Maya Deren, for example) all come together to ultimately impact what comes out of his filmmaking – a perspective has been formed by his artistic interest (and his personal life, of course), and that perspective comes through more and more with each project of his that I see, whether it be his films, his poetry or his photography. Dey’s last film, Man, Letter, House, was so interesting as it felt so fully formed and so specifically built around Dey’s own interests/personality, and this new film, the four-minute long mood-piece titled Still, does the very same whilst expanding that vision somewhat. 

The first element that struck me here was the lack of dialogue, and the choice to have a typed monologue as subtitles instead, whilst allowing the very gentle and serene sound design speak to another feeling entirely. The typed monologue is painted with a thick tar of melancholy and, seemingly, nostomania – a deep yearning for better times, to revert back to a time before that has been lost (most likely the narrator’s childhood home, though we don’t fully find out – I quite like the way that the specifics are kept vague, as it makes the emotions easier to empathise with) whilst, to me at least, the visuals and the aforementioned gentle sound design all made the film really quite beautiful, if a little detached. 

Dey’s subtle use of his camera – sticking to shots that don’t move, and are often framed in a quietly cinematic way (as in, what they show is mundane, but the framing suggests something larger) – is really what adds to the emotions of the film alongside the monologue, using the repeated greys and yellows of the surroundings (They may have stuck out a little more to me because of the Medslaus EP, Greys In Yellow)and the distant static shots to generate this subtly detached feeling, one that reflects the monologue in that forceful loneliness. We see this world as if we don’t belong to it in the way we should, we focused on trees and only see people from behind or from a distance, and so, even in only four minutes, the viewpoint of the narrator is entirely understood; he stands outside of the social order of this place he’s in, and whether he is trying to change that or not (we don’t know), it isn’t changing at all. I found it interesting that we never really know which character, of the few that we see, is our protagonist too. It’s easy to assume that it is the man who bookends the film, whom we see sitting and watching the waves crash in front of him, but we never have any certainty. The monologue appears from somewhere, but we have nobody to identify it with, and so the bending of cinematic rules by removing a protagonist actually adds a great deal to our understanding of the feelings of the film: Day forces us to be as detached as our faceless protagonist – it all reminds me a bit of The Stranger (Camus). 

Considering the minuscule runtime, the emotions conjured up and the techniques used to bring them to life is very impressive. A film like this is always unlikely to blow the doors off of the hinges, so to speak, due to their runtimes, but Still seems likely to linger in my mind for some time. There’s something about the way that these strong feelings of melancholy and stagnancy are brought together that is really quite pungent and striking, and the film is so articulate in communicating them as Dey knows exactly which rules to stick to and which to discard (a skill that he is proving time and time again, and seemingly becoming more confident with as he keeps making short films). 

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