By Ashley Maniw (JUly 17th, 2018)
Directed by: Rita Ferrando
Written by: Rita Ferrando & Solange Desrochers
Produced by: Solange Desrochers
Key Cast: Melissa Wright, Solange Desrochers
Tackling abusive relationships in a totally esoteric way, Midnights by Rita Ferrando is the type of short that will stick with you after you’ve watched it.
By using flashback sequences and haunting images, the film tells the story of Ada’s abusive relationship. The film covers both her time with her partner and her life after she leaves him. The tension in the film centres around Ada’s birthmark on her right cheek. Her partner offers to use his skills to remove it for her, and the film uses it as a jumping off point to explore Ada’s journey through recovery both from the surgery and her relationship with her husband.
Ferrando’s visual arts background makes this short an immense pleasure to watch. The non-linear narrative and sparse dialogue allows the audience to focus on the imagery and glean the story from that. It’s a poetic piece that has visuals ranging from grotesque to beautiful to haunting. Ferrando uses the seasons to represent the different stages of an abusive relationship – lush, bright summer for the good times when the relationship was new and positive; harsh winter for the dark times and when Ada tries to find herself after the marriage has disintegrated.
The removal of Ada’s birthmark acts as a visual cue for how we can lose intrinsic parts of ourselves in abusive relationships; how those negative relations can erase what we thought was unique, special and beautiful in us – the part of us that we thought made us who we are. As Ada moves through the world without her birthmark, her newfound freedom starts to feel like loneliness and isolation. Losing an important part of ourselves that other people see as a flaw renders us lost. Ferrando makes beautiful use of this feeling through images of Ada traveling throw a sparse forest in the middle of winter as she tries to come to terms with her life.
The use of body horror helps hone in on the violent aspects of abusive relationships, both literally and figuratively. While it seems that Ada wanted the procedure to remove her birthmark, small moments hint that it wasn’t complete consent: Ada alone and looking at her reflection, dripping blood, gauze covering half of her face. We see Ada coming in to herself and dancing alone, but the image is underscored with horror when we also see blood oozing from the corner of her mouth. Is this Ada returning to herself or is it a leftover scar from her relationship?
Abusive relationships have been tackled on film, often by men and often with a more direct approach, showing the violence to make an impact. Ferrando’s method may seem smaller and more poetic, but it has just as much emotion and visceral impact. The film ends on a rich image: Ada adding more wood to a bon fire in the middle of a snowy open field. The flames rise up as she tosses another branch onto the fire and she watches the flames grow larger. The message is clear - we can still add to what’s left of the fire within us to rise again. It’s a strong statement and a beautiful one.
Midnights is a rich, poignant short that presents its imagery without heavy explanation, allowing the audience to glean what they need from it. With the gorgeous imagery and creative storytelling, it’s a strong showcase for Ferrando as a filmmaker with a compelling message and a vision.
- Ashley Maniw