Horror that revolves around the arts is a subgenre I have always found particularly appealing...
...As someone who has studied and worked in creative fields their entire life, it is something I can relate to and enjoy seeing expressed in all forms of media, especially when a film explores the negative impacts these fields and the industries around them can have on someone behind closed doors. The short film “The Fourth Wall”, which recently premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival and is written and directed by Kelsey Bollig, explores these themes effectively and accurately.
In it we follow Chloé (Lizzie Brocheré), an actress that has spent her life on the stages of Paris, but what has she gotten in return for her dedication? Over the years she’s been chipped away at and become a product of the scrutiny and unfair politics that infest the entertainment industry.
We meet Chloé on the night of her last performance in Shakespeare’s A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream. Opening on a shot of how the night will end, we quickly move on to find her looking into a mirror and asking, “what is beauty?”.
This in itself is an often-debated topic among fans and creators alike, sometimes to the point of arguing their respective points as “facts”, but as we all know, one person’s trash can be another person’s masterpiece. Art is always subjective and there is no one correct way to view it... and yet there are certain standards upheld in the entertainment industry, over and over again, and “The Fourth Wall” allows the repercussions of these standards to play out before our eyes.
In its eleven minute and thirty-six second run time, the audience is given a very clear impression of this small cast of characters; instead of focusing on their performances, most of it takes place backstage where the actors are more allowed to be themselves and display behavior that shows us who they truly are. So, while we don’t get to spend much time with them, we still get to know them.
Jennifer (Jacqueline Bell) is an American actress who only knows her lines in French and speaks English behind the scenes. Alice (Victoria Lacoste) is busy having sex with a male coworker in her dressing room when she’s supposed to be on stage. And Louis (Roby Schinasi), after having sex with Alice, returns to his own dressing room to stuff his pants with a hairbrush and make himself look more impressive.
All these things remain hidden from the public but say a lot about the types of people Chloé has been sharing a stage with throughout her entire career, and when we see what she has to deal with on a regular basis, her anger and brusque attitude are easy to understand.
Chloé has hidden issues of her own, however. She has taken so much cocaine that her nose refuses to stop bleeding. She is aggressive and determined to be the star, willing to go to extremes to be in the spotlight.
The cinematography by Ludovica Isidori, and the use of colour made for some beautiful and memorable visuals. The camerawork by Etienne Muller consisted of a lot of impressive long continuous takes that were satisfying to watch. And the editing by Tyler Pharo utilised cuts that were well paced and effective, and became more frequent as Chloé’s mental state deteriorated.
The music by Sylvain Kauffman and Nikko DeTranquilli was just as effective as the visual aspects when it came to building atmosphere and tension, as well as reflecting the moods of our characters and the events of the story.
A lot of this short’s elements felt very reminiscent of Climax, a French horror film, which not only shares similar visuals and musical styles but also explores behind the scenes of a performance art. One of the things I found more enjoyable about “The Fourth Wall” is that it’s told entirely through a female lens, no doubt an effort of the women behind the camera to highlight some of the most vulnerable people in the industry. The story’s structure and narrative were also strong and clear, not always an easy feat for a short film to achieve.
There is some impressive practical effects-driven gore by Jeremy Lebrun, which is something I always appreciate, especially in a short, where budgets tend to be lower. Things get a little bloody in the best way, but the worst of it happens off camera, leaving us only the disturbing sounds and whatever our imagination conjures up until the camera pans over to show us the results. Most importantly it isn’t over the top in any way, it only adds to the story and the vivid portrayal of Chloé’s mental deterioration.
“The Fourth Wall” is a beautiful exploration of the negative impact the entertainment industry can have on artists trying to succeed and the often-misleading nature of public perception.
By Danielle Vanderstock