Inspired from Artemisia Gentileschi’s painting, Oksana Mirzoyan’s short film ‘Susanna’ is the visual experience of a sinking feeling in your stomach; of despair and the bleakest recognition of eventual hope.
The eponymous character, played by Kamee Abrahamian, plots her escape from the suffocating community and an abusive marriage, enlisting the help of her fellow community member and friend (Nikolay Livshiz). It does not take more than an accusation of adultery to do the job; she is ousted without question. Free at last, she is now confronted with the reality. Is it what she had hoped for? Does she rejoice? Mirzoyan delves deep into the human psyche to come up with the answer, and it is this that forms the focus of Oksana Mirzoyan’s ‘Susanna’.
There is not much in the way of a conventional plot, only a profoundly cinematic exploration of the human mind. It happens in a matter of seconds, but within that space of time, Mirzoyan and Abrahamian draw a detailed blueprint of the nooks and crannies of our minds. Kamee Abrahamian blends vulnerability and a community-bred formidableness and shines in her performance.
Michael Berlucchi frames the stark woods in ‘Susanna’ such that its seeming endlessness is a looming reminder of the despair that Susanna the character feels. As though the trees are wardens on behalf of the community, watchful of any misdemeanour, the visual appeal of the film stems from its stellar cinematography. They do not form physically effective barriers; it is in their imposing, labyrinthine endlessness that they hold power. The film is made to be a reimagination of Gentileschi’s painting, which in itself is a retelling of the biblical story, and carries the look and feel of it: animated drawings that become excruciatingly human… Harry Hovakmian’s original score tears at you and forces you to feel, and yet for the main part it remains aloof and cold, carrying with itself the coldness of the woods’ air. There is no sympathy to be had, no warm hands, no love, no joy, except in minute amounts, like a Daniel amidst Hilkiah and the Elders.
By the end of the film (11:20 minutes in duration), with a doubled over Susannah amidst the trees, Berlucchi and Mirzoyan walk away from her, not in abandonment but carrying the knowledge that she will ultimately find her way. Only Hovakmian lingers, long after the screen has faded to black, perhaps like a Daniel, after Susanna has walked on…
Highly recommended!#ShortFilmReview: 'Susanna' was willing to pay the ultimate price for her freedom… Click To Tweet