Firstly, I’d just like to say thanks to Amitice and French Writer/Director, Keyvan Sheikhalishahi for allowing me access to an online screener of his 23 minute Mystery/Thriller short, “Vesper”. Vesper places you in a dream-like state as Marge (played by Agnes Godey), a middle-aged woman, shuts herself off from the world in the hopes of escaping her manipulative and controlling husband, Walter (played by Gotz Otto from Iron Sky). Marge seeks counsel from her young nephew Christian (played by Sheikhalishahi himself), but he begins to discover secrets that involve both him and the troubled pair.
At just twenty years old, Keyvan has already made two shorts and a feature-length film, a wonderful accomplishment in an of itself. Vesper serves as my introduction to the young French filmmaker and it’s certainly an interesting little film. For the most part, Jean-Claude Aumont’s cinematography is easy on the eyes, with all the shots nicely framed and well executed. The internals at night are one of the highlights and the house makes for a quaint setting for this psychological story. The audio track is clean and the subtitles are all accurate. The original score is rather plain, though some of the high-frequency synth notes help to create a sense of otherworldliness. Vesper aims to keep you guessing about what’s at the core of it all and I certainly had an awareness about what the two male characters ultimately represented. All of the performances are good and the respective characters each have a solid arc.
On the technical front everything is pretty well conceived, but if I’m being critical the lighting is perhaps a touch flat in a few frames. My biggest criticism of Vesper is that it is a bit long and rather vague in some of its specifics. Twenty-three minutes is a long short, probably too long. I think Keyvan’s intention was to leave his audience with questions, but the problem is that the resolution feels unrewarding. It’s as if there are supposed to be two different timelines playing out over the course of the runtime, and characters reactions further support that theory. Christian and Marge are in the living room having a conversation about Walter and his ever-growing threatening behavior when he actually comes in and approaches her, yet there’s no reaction from Christian at all. It’s as if he didn’t know Walter was there, something established again in the scene that follows. Why couldn’t Christian see without his sunglasses? Or more specifically why was it painful for him without them? Was that a reference to something that had previously happened to him? It’s those vague particulars that prevent Vesper from really shining. I feel as though you can get away with a fair bit in the realms of a mystery film, but I think it may have benefited had there been some more clarity.
In spite of its shortcomings, Vesper is a nicely presented and effectively enough Mystery/Thriller from a young up and coming French filmmaker. The camera work is impressive, the sound is sharp, and all three performances are good ones. The story is intriguing enough but the lack of transparency took away from the end result. I think the runtime is a good five or six minutes too long and I had plenty of questions surrounding Christian’s reactions (or lack thereof) to various situations. I think it’s certainly worth a look but I’m even more excited to check out Keyvan’s next short film “Nox”. You can check out the trailer for Vesper below and keep an eye out for it soon!
My rating for “Vesper” is 6/10