Distraught and unable to move forward in life, a man enlists the help of his brother to take back an item from a woman who once held a special place in his heart. This is Sohale Dezfoli’s thriller Insentient.
Earlier this week, we reviewed director Dezfoli’s latest film Taste The Difference – a slapstick comedy based around the iconic 80’s advertising campaign The Pepsi Challenge. Taste The Difference brought to mind the madcap Zucker comedies like Airplane and The Naked Gun, but now we have something completely different.
Insentient is quite a few years older than Taste The Difference, having been made back in 2014, and it is also a much darker film. It’s what we would now call neo-noir, as it contains all of the classic film noir elements in a modern-day setting. There’s a dark mystery, a dangerous femme fatale, and a looming sense of dread that presides over each frame. Throughout its 19-minute run time, the short is stylishly shot visually with lots of dark blues, greys, and blacks. Sound-wise, with a rumbling soundtrack, it is also rhythmical thanks to its actors’ delivery of brooding staccato dialogue. It’s a mean movie about mean people doing mean things and mostly getting away with it, which makes it a good example of modern noir.
In his guise as the film’s screenwriter, Dezfoli’s script gives us a plot-obsessed picture that’s determined to stay one step ahead of the audience at all times. However, it is too clever for its own good and that unfortunately is a detriment to the overall quality of the film, as the script does tend to cheat when it needs to. It is also a decent example of a sub-genre that is often labelled the preposterous thriller. This is when characters and their behaviour bear no relation to, not only real-life but also, any sort of properly structured fiction we may have previously encountered.
This isn’t a big issue though, as many classic and near-classic films can be slotted into this same sub-genre of film. Particularly where the bad guy’s scheme makes absolutely no sense if you thought about it for longer than thirty seconds, and that the same plan would probably unravel in seconds if even the smallest part of it had not gone precisely as envisioned. In order to disguise this issue though, Dezfoli makes sure that the plan fails anyway and treats us to a twist that, even though we see coming, is still an enjoyable part of the film.
Although for long periods, the cinematography by Habib Khan Awan and Felix Penzarella focuses on a two-shot of our leads talking in a café, we do see some brief gliding camerawork, a few tidy compositions, and sickly, de-saturated colours working well with Naveed Dezfoli’s score. This helps to create a tense and nervy short film that goes one way and then another.
Even though I can’t say that the film is genuinely clever, I can say that thanks to some stellar performances and great direction, Insentient does actually work, and truly is a fine neo-noir that’s definitely worth catching when you can.