After his flat is burgled, Seth struggles against his flatmate, the police, and the tower block in which he lives to regain his stolen possessions and find the intruder in The Burglary.
The Burglary wears its Lynchian heart on its sleeve from its opening shot of our protagonists rushing up some stairs, to the final moment where the same protagonist stares blankly at an open door before deciding to blindly walk through it. Although set in modern-day, The Burglary feels like it lives entirely within a time and world of its own. It is a psychological drama whilst also being a character study about an individual who is living with increasing mental health issues. Unpredictable in its nature, The Burglary leads the audience down a few different rabbit holes and blends tones together in a clever way. It has a rhythm to it that is up and down, containing an atmosphere that becomes a little hypnotic which helps to add to its strangeness. It also brings to mind classic chamber pieces and theatrical stage plays with the fact it is set entirely within the confines of a studio flat lending it a claustrophobic nature, which in turn amplifies the tension.
At the centre of it all is Seth, played by the naturally stressed looking Tom Rainn, who is our anchor in this strange world of messy apartments, laughing police officers, and loud noises. Rainn is ably supported by James Coutsavlis as his flatmate Joel, a smugly confident yuppie type who really couldn’t care less about the incident and is far more interested in flirting with the female uniformed police officer called to deal with the situation. Rainn manages to bring humanity to proceedings with his genuine sense of confusion, while Coutslavis gives us someone to hate yet also provides moments of comic relief with his sarcastic delivery and smouldering pouts that magically attracts anyone.
One of the best things about The Burglary is how it uses its sound design to create mood and atmosphere, and helps enable the audience to understand what an image is trying to say. Devon George is credited as the sound engineer, but it is director Houghton who is the sound designer, and he skillfully plays around with different noises; for example when Seth leaves the apartment a high-pitched screeching leaves us unable to hear his conversations. A deep slow hum plays over some scenes, while the squealing violins on the soundtrack create a jarring effect that reminds you of the power sound can generate. The cinematography by Rose McLaughlin remains lush and dark, with certain rooms in the flat lit using coloured gels such as red and yellow which creates surrealism and adds to the confusion of things.
The Burglary doesn’t quite reach the emotional heights that it sets itself, but it is the type of film that definitely evokes the work of David Lynch, with a tense atmosphere, a dreamlike narrative, and an inconclusive ending that allows everyone to get something different out of it. The Burglary is a compelling short film that is not just fascinating but also a little bit odd.