Three friends become embroiled in an unusual love triangle that involves a twisted reclamation of identity, sexuality, and masculinity in Nora Stock’s adult drama Ecstasy Behind the Forgotten.
In her notes, writer/director Nora Stock tells us that her 10-minute short Ecstasy Behind the Forgotten is a student film. While I am sure that is true, by telling us, Stock is doing herself a huge disservice, because her film is quite excellent and deserves far more recognition than being described as “just another student film”. At its most basic level, Ecstasy Behind the Forgotten is a modern-day version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the 18th-century novel of sexual intrigue that has given birth to numerous film adaptations. Ecstasy’s modern twist makes it different in some ways but, like its predecessors before it, the strongest moments of the short involve the use of language and the motivations of its characters.
August and Wren, played by William Lund and Scott Callenberger, are best friends and flatmates. August is gay, while Wren has a girlfriend named Julia (played by Jenna Szoke). What becomes obvious early on is that August is jealous of this relationship, but jealous of what or who remains open to debate, it is that central dilemma that makes Ecstasy a fascinating character study. Lund as August gives a terrific performance, he is the John Malkovich of this threesome, his scheming and manipulation are a guilty pleasure. He is not a nice person, in truth none of the characters are, but his playing of Wren and Julia, despite being cruel and wicked, is a joy to behold. There is a lot of chemistry between the three leads and, by the end of the short, they will all have played each other in one way or another, but what stands out amongst all of the games is the script and the dialogue. Apart from some very brief, very partial nudity at a strip club, there is no overtly sexual behaviour during the short, but there are some scenes that prove subtle eroticism can be far more effective than bedroom gymnastics and that is a credit to Stock and her incredibly mature writing.
Visually, Ecstasy always remains interesting to look at, with the opening shot of a bloodied August encased in sand being quite memorable, while the cinematography by Nick Bradshaw manages to capture the sense of confinement of the flat and closeness that the three friends uncomfortably share together. The lighting also helps shape the mood of the piece from the dimly lit bedrooms of the bedsit, to the bright external shots of the town centre. There are also some great garishly lit strip club scenes, where the neon purple and pink lighting whirs around the room and blurs the lens, symbolising the confused state of our three protagonists.
The music by Robert Leslie has an easy-going folky feel, his voice is very reminiscent of James Taylor and his original songs call to mind the ’90s soundtracks that would accompany teen films like Singles and Reality Bites.
Not only is Ecstasy Behind The Forgotten an intriguing film, it is also a highly effective one. It comes across as extremely modern and provides us with an accurate and honest portrayal about the sexuality of young adults today. It is refreshing, to see a movie reflecting and even luxuriating in its own cynicism and this leads me to believe Nora Stock will go on to become a hugely important figure in independent cinema