Perpetual Anamnesis (2020) short film review

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As a man makes a routine video call to his wife isolated on the other side of the country, the reality of their relationship becomes clear. Read on to see how we rate Joseph Vilapaz’s low-tech but very timely science fiction short, Perpetual Anamnesis.

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Perpetual Anamnesis is the 8th episode of Joseph Vilapaz’s sci-fi drama anthology ‘The Magnate Journal’. The film’s title can be defined as ‘a constant recollection of a previous existence’. After some snazzy cold war-esque opening titles we are treated to a Stars Wars-type serial crawl. We have reviewed some of Villapaz’s work before on Screen Critix.

According to the Journal entry, for thousands of years, an alien race known as ‘The Magnate’ have been stationed on earth and are immune to all Earth-based biological sickness and diseases. Unfortunately, only a handful of them have been able to successfully integrate human emotions without becoming self-destructive. Those who were unable to, deal with their emotions in unpredictable ways.

In a lovely opening shot of our protagonist climbing the stairs to his home, we are introduced to one of these aliens; a ‘magnate’ named Doz played by Villapaz himself. Doz looks completely human and is dressed quite normally in a black shirt and jeans combo, however in a slight acknowledgment of the uniqueness of his character, he wears a Panama hat that helps him stand out in a crowd, but not too much. He sits in front of his computer screen and engages in a conversation with his wife Keeley Shantz, who is isolated away from him on the other side of the country. What follows is a bite-size quarantine drama involving back-and-forth talking head duologues, where the separated couple chats about everything from their love, their life, and their pets.

Villapaz’s ambition is impressive if not altogether successful, however, where Villapaz deserves a lot of credit is in actually creating a piece of drama during the current lockdown period. Percolating the idea, I assume, since we were first forced to endure a collective retreat into our homes around 50 or so days ago. It seems that Villapaz managed to write, cast, film, edit, score, and produce this 10-minute short all within 7 days, so, Panama hats off to you for that Joseph.Perpetual Anamnesis Poster 194x300 Perpetual Anamnesis (2020) short film review

There is something incredibly emotional, soothing, and uplifting about stories that try to make narrative sense of the experiences we are having and the world that we currently live in. Especially as we are going through new emotions every day. During the current COVID crisis, this is taking the form of telling stories to each other across social media via Zoom, Skype, laptops, and I-phones. Villapaz has taken the realism route by adjusting the lights, the camera, and his actor’s physical positioning and blocking to create the drama.

Villapaz is ably helped do this by his cast including Shantz and Patricia Lawrence who plays his mother. All 3 characters are distinctly different from each other and this helps to liven up the predominantly static scenes. Villapaz himself can convincingly convey the emotion of the material and although he is sometimes guilty of signaling towards the camera and occasionally ‘acting’ too much, he does have the ability to shed a convincing tear or two when required. Shantz is suitably perky coming across as devoted to her husband while Lawrence plays the stern mother figure to a tea.

The science fiction angle is a little difficult to understand but the underlying emotion of the piece is there throughout the run time. Meanwhile, Villapaz’s direction shows genuine improvement with every short that he does and I have no qualms in giving the warm-hearted Perpetual Anamnesis a 3-star rating.

3 / 5 stars     

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