Cameron Currin and Cody Kristapovich’s 18-minute Mandje is a loose adaptation of The Fisherman and His Wife (adapted by Josh Hughes) substituting the grand scale of its progression for a more rustic, folk mood. The film wants to reinforce the anti-fairytale nature of the story and thus attempts to be psychological and gritty, something along the lines of Psycho and The Lighthouse.
The main characters—the fish prince, the fisherman, and his wife—begin the story somewhere in the middle. The flounder (voiced by Paul D. Morgan) has granted the fisherman (Michael Oilar) and his wife (Clarice Lafayette) a comfortable life. Her greed is represented by gluttony, introducing her in a tight closeup: first a gobbling mouth and then a person. The colour scheme is kept sepia. Though it feels like more of an unnecessary affectation, it is an attempt to depict the progression of the wife’s greed on the very sky and air.
Somewhat contradicting itself, the film turns things claustrophobic without being atmospheric. There is no longer the turbulent sea, not even through sound, replaced by an idle cave instead. The flounder is stowed away here in a bucket, a fearsome entity and yet trapped. He is depicted through voiceover only, a demonic voice subject to the whims of the wife and the requests of the fisherman. The background score does much of the film’s heavy lifting, giving it a tale-like quality that is inviting and deliciously mysterious.
The wife’s greed grows, going from cottage to mansion to universal, godlike power. The film also adds in adultery. As far as plot development goes, it is tiresome. But the mise-en-scene creates interest. The mansion itself witnesses its masters. embroiled in quarrels and lovemaking by the fire. The folktale then turns gothic here. The two exist in tension; per the folktale, the mansion must disappear. Yet, the demands of the gothic require that the mansion exist forever, certainly beyond the tenancy of its current inhabitants.
This embodies the general conflict that Mandje is dealing with: after combining varying elements, it appears unsure of just where to situate itself. The gothic loses itself in the folk, and the folk is so contaminated that it is no longer itself.
Watch Mandje Short Film Trailer
Mandje: The Limits of Greed and the Steep Fall Beyond