Black (2008) – By Cary Conley

“Black” is the newest film short from the writer/director tandem of Seth and Nathan Anderson and producer Jason Hagen.  Together these three filmmakers founded Lullskull Limited in 2006 and “Black” is their second project.
Clocking in at 40 minutes, “Black” is described as a psychic thriller, an apt description for this film.  The plot concerns a husband, Emile, and wife, Dana.  The husband is a psychiatrist who is dealing with his fear of dying while his wife is a psychic who inadvertently draws a mysterious negative force into their lives.  They seem to be drifting apart as both characters wrestle with their own personal demons.  Can these two make a connection or will the marriage—and possibly their lives—come to an end?

On only their second project, the Andersons show great maturity in both their writing and filmmaking techniques.  The writing is top-notch and the directing is taut.  Filmed along the Oregon coast, the scenery is gorgeous and the directors make good use of it.  There are many interesting camera angles and it is clear these filmmakers know their craft.  I also thought the editing was excellent.

Robert McAtee plays Emile, our psychiatrist that is grappling with a potentially life-threatening illness.  His overriding fear is of dying and he is wondering how to break this news to his wife, whom he loves but has also felt more distant from recently.  McAtee does a terrific job with his character and shows a wide range of emotions in his acting.

Seriina Covarrubias plays Emile’s psychic wife Dana.  Dana accidentally invites a negative force into her home when she is helping a mysterious man try to find his missing wife.  She has an innate psychic ability but her husband doesn’t believe her and has her taking medication in an effort to cure her.  Actress Covarrubias also does a nice job in her role, alternately showing both a timid side as well as a strong side to her character when the time arises.

This is a strange little film.   Emile keeps having dreams or visions of some type of alien or monster chasing him.  While it is unclear if the alien is out to harm him, when it catches him, he is always bound and gagged, leaving him unable to take control of the situation.  Dana keeps trying to break through his mental block and help him along to a solution, but she also has problems of her own.  The mystery man keeps harassing her, trying to convince her to help him find out what happened to his missing wife.

There are all kinds of different subtexts to this film.  The opening shot shows Emile jogging as we hear a voiceover of his wife counseling a client during a psychic reading.  She asks the client to “think of the person you have lost and tell them what you need to tell them.”  It seems clear that while she is talking to a client, she is also trying to coach her husband along his journey.

The title of the film is “Black”, and it is filmed in black-and-white; therefore, it’s no surprise that the color black plays an important part of this film.  The characters typically dress in dark clothing; much of the set decoration is in dark colors; there are several instances of characters either entering into or exiting from very dark areas; and Emile experiences a blackout during the climax that both he and Dana must fight through if they are to be saved.

But finally, this film is really about faith, hope, trust, and ultimately redemption.  It is tense but ends on a very positive note and ultimately leaves the viewer satisfied with the conclusion of events.  It seems clear to me that the filmmakers had a very specific vision and worked hard to communicate that vision not only visually, but on several different levels.

I enjoyed “Black” both as a narrative film as well as a film with multiple subtexts.  I wish the filmmakers good luck in any future projects they may have as they show real talent and promise.
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