A man stares into a mirror reflecting on his appearance, his life, and, of course, his reflection. Does he have a split personality or is he just himself? Here is our review of Philip Brocklehurst’s latest short film the psychological thriller Reflection.
Some of the imagery in Reflection comes across as quite unsettling. Photographed in black and white, we are drawn into the musings of the character of the piece. He is given no name, and we learn nothing about him but his two eyes stare at us through the reflection of a mirror. The eyes belong to, we’ll call him our antagonist, the actor PM Thomas, and we simply watch him as he watches himself. Different angles show us different perspectives of this man looking in the mirror, he stands back, he moves closer yet he is always staring. What is he looking for? What is he trying to understand?
We are told that our eyes are the windows to our soul but what do we see when we gaze into the eyes of another person. Brocklehurst is asking us to decide what information we are getting about someone else’s emotional state.
PM Thomas gives us a range of emotion in his looks, he pulls faces, he jumps back, he gurns, he gnashes. When he is sad or worried he furrows his brow making his eyes look smaller, yet when he is cheerful or maniacal he seems bright-eyed and evil because he raises his eyebrows making his eyes look bigger and brighter. Within a close-up, we can tell by looking at a person’s eyes, a true emotion from a fake one; a smile is easy to fake, we do it all the time out of politeness, but the eyes are the giveaway. When a person is truly happy they not only smile, they also crinkle the corners of their eyes in a crow’s feet pattern, but when people are faking it, they usually forget about their eyes. PM Thomas doesn’t, he manages to give us a masterclass in subtlety, yet when he is required to react more we also get a lesson in crudeness.
The sound direction and use of noises in Brocklehurst’s films have always been one of his strongest talents. Here again, in Reflection, his sound techniques make a difference to the project. The noises we hear are few and far between but this makes them even more effective. These sounds create a visceral reaction in the viewer, whether that be from a quick blast giving an effective jump scare or a longer running whispering sound used just to enhance the unsettling atmosphere. Credit where it is due, Brocklehurst certainly knows how to tell a story through sound.
There are nods to Jekyll and Hyde with Reflection, due to the images and sounds that we can see and hear, we know our lead is not completely normal. However, I would like to have seen more of the evil side of the character. Is it a completely different person or just part of his imagination? There are a couple of half-baked suggestions dropped here and there that are never fully wrapped up, while a resolution to the premise would have certainly made the film more interesting. However with a runtime of 2 ½ minutes, some gorgeous black and white photography, and a couple of scary moments. Reflection is easily our favourite Brocklehurst short film to date.