It’s not often that I review an independent short that features an actor of Tom Noonan’s caliber, so when something like this comes to me, many things cross my mind. First of all, the standards for the short are probably going to be of a higher caliber than most indie projects that I come across. Secondly, I must wonder what drew someone like Noonan to this project. A fan favorite and tremendous character actor, Noonan is a performer that can always be counted on to bring something intriguing to any role. A very strong actor who is capable of spicing up even the smallest of roles, his performance was never in question before sitting down to watch Skinhead Requiem. The only question I had before watching the movie was, will the short live up to Noonan’s talents? Well, spoiler alert, yes it does.
The plot for Skinhead Requiem is very brief. It focuses on a priest, played by Tom Noonan, who is having a small discussion with a skinhead who is apparently serving time in prison. Their discussion is on anything but the real topic at hand, which is the emotional state of this prisoner. As the short unfolds, we see a great deal from this “skinhead,” but we are never told anything explicit about his current feelings or state.
The filmmakers knew exactly what they had with Tom Noonan, and they put him right on display immediately. The short opens up in a closeup on Noonan’s face, allowing his intensity to immediately fill up the screen. An actor capable of holding an audience with just his words, Noonan’s monologue is forceful even when he’s talking about something as trivial as his mother cooking fish. Across the table from Noonan is Jason Victor Elliot, the director and co-star of this short, who hangs right in there with Noonan in terms of intensity. With a massive swastika tattooed across his face and blood red eyes staring into the camera, the audience wouldn’t be blamed to feel an immense amount of fear when first seeing this character. However, we quickly see torment in the man, and with only a few passing words we’re clued into this man’s past. The short details a discussion that seems to avoid the elephant sitting in the room, but despite the lack of words explaining every nook and cranny of the emotional context being displayed, we understand what is at stake here. The audience discerns all the information that they need through visuals and small character ticks, but the movie never sacrifices a bit of its intensity because of this decision.
The short is very sharp and works brilliantly as a small narrative experiment. The movie is all about the performances of these actors and they are in top form. Telling a story with limited words, this is what separates cinema from all arts. If you happen upon the opportunity to see Skinhead Requiem, I would highly recommend it. You can read more about the project via its official Facebook page, located here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Skinhead-Requiem/427355700674632