Eight strangers are tested like never before when they wake up and find themselves locked up inside a mysterious house. Here is our review of director Maximillian Aguiar’s improvised comedy feature film The Doors Between Us.
Improvisation is a form of performance in which the actors involved have no script, in a theatre or on a TV sketch show like Whose Line Is It Anyway, they make things up in front of a live audience. In film, improvisation works in much the same way as the actors are encouraged to perform without a script but the audience for them is the director and his camera.
Improvisation is also an extremely difficult skill to get right and no amount of making stuff up will help unless the performers taking part are talented enough to pull it off. If we look at the filmmakers who have successfully transferred the art of Improvisation into successful comedy movies we will find that it is quite a shortlist. From the top of my head Christopher Guest from Spinal Tap, The Python’s and I guess as well a lot of Judd Apatow’s back catalogue.
‘The Doors Between Us’ is an improvised comedy movie that uses the well-known comedic technique of throwing two completely opposing personalities into a confined space together and then leaving them there to work each other out. The hope is that from this contrived situation, the comedy will ensue and over the years in any number of sitcoms movies and plays this has sometimes led to gold dust.
From the start ‘The Doors Between Us’ hedges its bets significantly by giving us not one set of enemies, not two, but four different pairs of different characters in 4 different rooms of a mysterious house. Filmed in black and white the setting is pretty basic with the use of close-ups and mid shots being Aguiar’s chosen style. Each of the 8 characters is given their moment to find some emotional depth but mainly it’s just an excuse for them to chew the scenery and shout really loud at each other.
Unfortunately, ‘The Doors Between Us’ fails to hit any sort of comedy heights during its 1hr 50 minutes run time and despite a game ensemble cast it leaves us feeling confused and more than a little disappointed.
Reviewing a comedy can be a tricky business because the question of whether the comedy was “good” or “bad” depends upon whether or not I was amused. Laughter is an involuntary reaction and If I laugh at something that you don’t, nothing I can say is going to convince you that it was funny. Sadly I didn’t laugh a great deal at ‘The Door’s Between Us but that isn’t to say other people won’t. I will say that I enjoyed Waseem Aad’s performance as his voice and facial expressions reminded me of Gilbert Gottfried.
With regard to the film itself, a lack of a script is a major problem as we travel up a lot of dead ends. but director Maximillian Aguiar must shoulder some of the blame for this too because as the director he plays a vital role. He represents the audience and it is his job to filter the improvisations of his performers. It is a director’s responsibility to make sure that his actors’ work fits with other elements in a scene to create an overall effect. Although the actors may understand their characters, they still need to be directed to relate to the other people in the scene, to the camera angles and to understand the reason why they are doing something. The director must know what he is after to get the appropriate response from an audience. Otherwise, it is just a group of people having a laugh and sharing private jokes that nobody else outside their circle will understand. That type of comedy leaves the audience feeling left out and they quickly lose interest. Improvisation is a group activity and it needs to include both the performers and their audience to elicit laughs.
Even though improvisation is at the heart of how he makes films, the legendary Christopher Guest points out, “Even with improvisation, scripting still needs to occur and narrative still needs to be followed. In fact, it has to be more strictly adhered to than ever. If you don’t have at your disposal as an actor every single detail of what happens in a scene and your back story, you can’t begin to work. It’s not just people yapping and coming in and saying whatever they want.”
‘The Doors Between Us’ is guilty of that error more than a few times, but overall it is a nice effort from an enthusiastic bunch of people that just needed a bit more quality control.