Olympia | Short Film Review
By ASHLEY MANIW (May 2nd, 2019)
Directed by: Giulia Achenza
Produced by: Basement
Key Cast: Aomi Muyock, Silvia Degrandi, Valerio Maccario
A marker of a good filmmaker is the ability to take settings and turn them into a mood. In the short film Olympia, director Giulia Achenza manages to make a beautiful, sun-filled apartment into a place of darkness and dread, adding another layer to a story about love, loss, marriage and grief.
The film is loosely based on the novella The Body Artistby Don DeLillo and focuses on a newlywed couple as they move in together. Olympia (Aomi Muyock) is a body artist and her husband Levi (Valerio Maccario) is a famous film director. Using only bits of dialogue and relying mostly on imagery and pointed looks between her actors, Achenza is able to show both the sweet moments that come when living as a new couple, and also the moments of annoyance and tension that happens when merging two different lives.
But tragedy strikes - Levi leaves one morning after an argument and is later found dead in his first wife’s apartment from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.The rest of the film focuses on Olympia, now a widow, as she tries to understand and come to term with what happened. She sees Levi’s apparition in their apartment, but can’t understand him and he can’t (or won’t) explain. She also finds his tape recorder that has him narrating a story about a woman who has escaped an institution.
Is he referring to his new wife or his first wife? Did his first wife murder him or did Olympia? The film leaves more questions than answers – it doesn’t seem that interested in wrapping the plot up with a neat little bow – but that’s not necessarily a detriment as there are so many unspoken moments and striking imagery that it doesn’t need a strict narrative to set the tone.
There are subtle references to Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni films – the brooding, handsome director who wears suits and sunglasses like no one else; tension in a marriage compounded by a relationship with another person; a deep sense of existentialism; and, of course, gorgeous fashion and costuming.
But there’s also a sense of foreboding in the film that feel very David Lynch-ian – a sense of menace from an otherwise mundane location, mounting dread and the use of doors and doorways as a framing technique, an ambient score. There’s also a particularly terrifying shot of an eye gazing through a keyhole that is still haunting me.
Achenza is a fashion film director and her talent shows here as she uses natural lighting to give the entire short a warm glow and a natural, realistic feel. As the main character is a body artist there are also shots of her dancing to work through her grief that adds depth and mystery to the film.
Overall, Achenza does an excellent job of showing the grief and loneliness that come after the death of a partner, of trying to understand why someone went away. Of course, there are no easy answers to this and Achenza doesn’t try to give a definitive response - but the mood that she’s able to create feels significant and moving nonetheless. It’s a strong piece of filmmaking from a talented artist who really understands the subconscious struggles we can all relate to.
- Ashley Maniw