Film Education

“DEATH OF A SHADOW” – A Review of the Oscar Nominated Short Film – 2013

“DEATH OF A SHADOW” A Film by Tom Van Avermaet

Oscar Nominated Short Film – 2013


A Review by Oorvazi Irani

Soldier Nathan died during World War I. A strange collector imprisoned his shadow and gave him a new chance: a second life against 10,000 captured shadows…

How is this for a beginning to a story idea. Not real but fascinating. And that’s the power of a good story, you believe in it not because of it being realistic but because of its hidden truth, power and beauty. The director Tom Van Avermaet is influenced by ‘surrealists’ of the American cinema (Darren Aronofsky, Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, Stanley Kubrick…) and inspired by the mythology and mystery of fantasy tales and comic books. This is very apparent in his style and choice of subject but what is interesting is that he does not deal with the film poetically or mysteriously as a treatment but makes this magic realism rooted in the apparent world of realism. Many critics have dubbed his film as steam-punk which the director defends “Steam-punk is like a general term for science fiction in the Victorian Age, with machines” but says his work is not centered around that but does use certain elements from that genre.

Coming back to the story why does Nathan want to go back to the world of the living, why does he want a second chance? Here kicks in the director as auteur again “there are elements I come back to, like the element of someone looking for an unreachable love. Both shorts have those elements.” (“Dreamtime” 2006 was his first short film and the current film was under production for 5 years now). So at a simple level the film is a love story where our hero wants to come back to life or rather buys his way to a second chance to live to meet a woman he fell in love with just before dying. But of course there is a twist in this love story, after he buys his second life he is faced with the harsh reality that she does not love him but someone else. The film now gaining dramatic momentum leads Nathan to take revenge and destroy his object of jealousy, however ultimately ending in a self realization and a sacrifice for love.

The love story is not new but what makes the mark is that the film is in a new wrapping with surrealistic layers and this added with Matthias Schoenaerts (“Rust and Bone”) intense performance as Nathan Rijckx, the eye for detail with great production value and visual beauty along with a effective soundtrack, help take the film beyond a simple love story to the realm of a pondering on life and existence itself.

An imagery that lingers on is the gallery collection of the ‘shadows of death’. But for my liking I did expect more of the poetry of the mysterious world of shadows, but that’s another story and maybe another film.

“Death of Shadow” was Screened exclusively in Mumbai by the Shamiana Short Film Club on 24th February 2013 with a message from the film-maker.

You can watch Oscar Nominated Short Films here

This Film Review First Published on the website Mad About Moviez