On the Couch: Milena

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In the Freudian short film Milena by Rima Naim, there is a careful staginess to the production. This is hardly a bad thing; in fact, it seems almost reflexively clever. The palpable passion between the two nameless leads manifests itself through stares, gestures, and the kind of body language that one sees in the grandly dramatic stage productions. But the cinematic qualities of this short accentuate these emotions. It’s a slightly jarring, though not in a bad way, marriage of the two mediums, with the outright lighting and mood changes of the stage and the stylish camera work seen only in cinema.

Naim’s direction and intention seems to play with repression and the subconscious, as the short jumps around in time but suggests that the eponymous Milena is on the bed remembering this passion. We are transported to a therapy session, where her therapist takes on the visage of her past lover. The dramatic sexual tension reminds one of Venus in Furs, the lighting so striking that it highlights minute details in the sparsely dressed set and the costumed actors.

Interestingly, rarely does one see these characters speak on screen. There’s a fine line to be walked when dealing with voiceover, for fear of both obnoxious exposition and having the actors randomly brood with no purpose. Naim puts us at enough distance so that these actors don’t look ridiculous. The audio effects emulate an old record player, amusingly again reminding one of the Freudian aspects of the short.

The problem with this short, however nicely composed and rendered it may be is that the narrative and thematic through line is hard to discern. There is not enough of a conclusion to what exactly wants to be said by the characters or by the director herself. Yes, there are ruminations on memory, lost love, etc. and while it may be uniquely put together, it doesn’t seem to be concrete enough for it to feel, for lack of a better word, complete.

Nonetheless, the experimental qualities of the film, some of which hint at a director who is more than willing to take risks with the way she tells her stories, compensate for the lack of closure in the short. I shall await when she can grab a feature and bring her abilities to the big screen. The last thing we would want is for her, or any new visionaries, to fade away.

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