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KTV Film Festival: Lamplight

KTV Film Festival: Lamplight
Georgia Dack

Georgia is the website entertainment editor and is also an English literature and Film student; she (unsurprisingly) enjoys & likes to write about cinema, tv shows, books, music, and culture.

Written and directed by Ollie Patterson and Ryan McDowell, Lamplight is an enigmatic short film grounded in the domestic setting of student digs, but lifted by high concept storytelling. On the day of his estranged best-friend Eddie’s birthday, The Dreamer (Chris Ball) goes to a birthday gathering, in which he is greeted by Eddie’s unwelcoming girlfriend and her friends. Much to the annoyance of his girlfriend, The Dreamer brings with him drugs, beer and a teenage reckless abandon that he clearly can’t let go of, and doesn’t want his friend to either. After the night ends pretty disappointingly, the plot nosedives into something of a fragmented blackout fever dream, and things get very weird.

Dreams act as a filter, a way of understanding our own thoughts, and Lamplight handles this concept interestingly. The dreamer enters a forest and interacts with an enigmatic figure in a mask (played by Alexa McGinn), who takes him back to Eddie’s house. The previous party narrative then restarts, but this time, coloured by The Dreamer’s thoughts, this version of events takes different turns. As the dream continues it becomes more and more convoluted, with characters being more frank about their feelings, sparks of previous conversations appearing now and then, and The Dreamer getting to talk with Emily, a girl at the party he likes (also played by Alexa McGinn). The dreaming layer of narrative is on the nose, “you’re not very good at dreaming are you?” says Harry Walton’s Edgar, but in a self-reflective way which reserves the intrigue for elsewhere.

Its small beginnings deceptively suggest a domestic melodrama, but the duo takes cues from David Lynch with unexplained ominous figures, doppelgangers and an intriguing layered narrative. There are some horror movie stylisms, and the eccentric disturbing elements were reminiscent of that disturbing web-series Don’t Hug me I’m Scared. Even if there is an opacity to influences, the plot is held together very nicely in technique.

Furthermore, the editing comes in to play exceptionally in this respect, with quick inter-cut shots and noises which require some sense making, and transitions from place to place which artfully mimic the nonsensical geography and timescapes of dreams. In moments there are two realities interacting, in others objects drop from one shot and fall seamlessly into the hands of a character in the next. It’s small touches such as these which demonstrate the depth of this work. The audience is moved from settling in the fever dream to a sobering nightmare and, cleverly, the “shephard tone” is used throughout, especially towards the end, to create an audio sense of unending suspense.

There are some lovely bits of cinematography in the film, but it doesn’t boast the most amazing production qualities, which is no fault of the filmmakers, its the pitfall of most student films; this did however mean that some scenes were less intelligible and may have contained vital information for understanding its spiralling plot. But, balanced by ambitious and stylistic direction choices, Patterson and McDowell’s short film demonstrates a lot of potential. The full meaning of events is still lost on me, but the shrouded suggestions of what’s really going on stick with you long after viewing, which is undeniably a signpost of success. The result is a smart, intriguing (albeit disturbing and occasionally humorous) addition to KTV’s drama selection this year.

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