BIFF Review: Shorts Selection

-Kirsten Waller

Like the best kind of ice-cream parlour, watching a range of short films offers a variety of options, some more intriguing than others.

Some are disturbing – like the idea of beef stew gelato – and Father/Son is especially unsettling. A new girlfriend is brought home to meet the parent and the three characters go out shooting. An opulent, mundane setting belies the disturbing undercurrents in the film’s relationships and the tension becomes more obvious as everyone sits down to dinner. It’s beautifully done but hard to shake off; the atmosphere creeps under the skin.

Not everything is dark in tone. The Horsemen is joyously bonkers and makes it’s premise – that all racehorses are literally ‘horse-men’, as per pantomime tradition – seem like the most natural thing. Happy Birthday Jim has less success, where a man ruins his surprise birthday party by slagging off most of the guests beforehand. What doesn’t help is that the central joke is obvious once you’ve seen the trailer, and the film doesn’t have much more to it. The insults are treated with a capable comic touch but the whole thing feels as though it’s been done before.

The screening ends on The Voorman Project, the stariest billing on the list. It tells the story of a psychiatrist, played by Martin Freeman, who is sent to assess a patient – Voorman, portrayed by Tom Hollander – who believes himself to be divine.

Amongst a collection of inventive stories, Voorman manages to stand out. Ice cream-wise, it is caramel and sea-salt, sweet, sharp and deliciously moreish. This is partly due to the simplicity of the idea, and the way in which the plot twists, often unexpectedly. The remaining brilliance is down to the cast. It is hard to imagine an actor other than Hollander giving a more perfect rendition of the line ‘I will partake of the Governor’s brandy’.

The programme comes highly recommended, serving as a reminder of how subversive cinema can be when placed in more imaginative hands. Eight complimentary ice cream flavours optional.

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