War Paint (2011) – By James Dubbeldam

War Paint is a 14 minute dramatic short film directed, produced and edited by Marcus Liberski.

It tells the story of a girl (Emily Seale-Jones) who can’t face the outside world. The film begins with her in bed waking suddenly and screaming/crying into her pillow. She’s in a lot of pain. We see her carefully applying makeup again and again in the film, unsure of the importance at first. But we know something is not right. She appears to be paranoid, and as she tries to leave her apartment building it becomes clear that she cannot face the outside world. Or her mysterious neighbor who she’s scared of/intrigued by.

When a fire alarm un-expectantly forces her neighbor (Daniel Cabello) out of his apartment, she learns his secret. He has skin condition that is covering his face and body (although he is a very attractive man). They connect quickly and are drawn together when he (and we as the viewer) learn that she has a similar skin problem. And together they decide to face the world.

War Paint is a musically driven short film with no dialague. It was scored by the acclaimed composer Trevor Jones (The Last of the Mohicans, Notting Hill). Although the music is quite good, there’s just too much of it. In my opinion there needs to be less score and silent breaks, which can be a very powerful tool. Also with the abundance of music the sound design was lacking, and could really bring this film to life. Especially a film with no dialogue. It would have felt more real and made it easier to get into the story.

Things tended to take a while to happen, a very common mistake in short films, especially when being edited by the director. Not that it was boring or overlong, it just could have used a little trimming here and there to move it along quicker, which in my opinion would strengthen the story.

The acting is good.  It’s quite a challenge to make characters real when there is no dialogue and must be quite a daunting task to take on, but both actors did quite well. They’re believable and know the importance of quick glances, body language and eye movement. Their chemistry is a little odd at times- they interact with each other in a strange yet intriguing way.  The production itself was professional, well-shot and directed. It all came together in a well-presented package. No faults there!

Overall War Paint is an interesting, well-produced short. My hat off to the director for attempting something so challenging. Although the story was a little difficult to get into, it was a great attempt at something different. The essence of what a short film is for.