Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Maria Alice Arida for allowing me early access to an online screener of her 18 minute psychosexual Drama/Thriller short, “Instinct”. Instinct follows Isabelle (played by Christine Kellogg-Darrin), a lonely gallery owner who is rather apprehensive about her latest performance artist, the young and seductive Camila (Jordan Monaghan). Despite their differences, a late night encounter sees the pair hit it off in an unexpected way, leading to an interesting development.
Instinct is the sixth short film from Arida and it calls to mind a more succinct telling of something like Brian De Palma’s “Passion” or even “Windows” from 1980. At its core, it’s about loneliness and that feeling of being disconnected from the world and those around you. Hannah Getz’s lovely cinematography sets things off on the right foot. She utilizes simple shot setups and all the framing looks incredibly slick. The film’s backdrop being that of the art world lends itself perfectly to some unique visuals that you don’t ordinarily see. The audio is really sharp and Erick Aguila’s musical choices are built nicely around classical themes. He opens the film with some low bass rumblings and transitions into a series of broad back and forth strokes on strings. Synth enters the fold shortly thereafter too. Christine and Jordan share a natural chemistry and both performances are quite raw and powerful.
On the technical front, my only issue is that the lighting looked a little dim during the office scene. The other thing is that I’ve never been one of those people that believes just anything can be labeled “art” (I think that’s a personal preference though). Personally, I think there’s a facade of sophistication to this kind of work when in reality a lot of what it encompasses is rather hollow. Camila’s “performance” doesn’t actually involve or require a particular set of skills, nor really anything for that matter. It’s a self-inflicted exhibition of ill-treatment or neglect if you will, and I can’t fathom why she’d subject herself to that, or how one would find any artistic merit in such a showing. On an unrelated note, I was able to foresee the specifics of what was taking place in Isabelle’s own private workspace too.
With Instinct, Marie continues the trend of impressive short films for 2018. Isabelle is a lonely soul looking for a connection and that’s something we can all relate to on some level. The cinematography is gorgeous, the audio is clear, and the score is suitably eerie. Both performances are strong and Arida’s foundations and style ooze of De Palma in the best possible way. I’m certainly wary of buying into the glamour and status at the forefront of the world of art. I know there are so many different periods and styles but some things just can’t possibly be classified as art (e.g Camila’s performance) – at least not in my mind. Even with the somewhat predictable climax, Instinct was a memorable film and I look forward to seeing what The American Film Institue and the talented Maria Arida do next! You can check out the teaser trailer below.
My rating for “Instinct” is 8/10