Madeleine

By Ollie Verschoyle | Drama
In a small American town, a mundane event sparks a glimpse into a mysterious and normally unseen world.

A girl twirls a baton on a soccer field. An old man stands on his lawn and stares out at the world. A salesman of”sensory time travel” visits a client, who remembers a morning in a cafe. A man on his way to work misses his train out of the suburbs. A young boy wanders off into the woods, where he has a strange encounter. But at one crucial moment, they become linked through a moment of piercing awareness.

Writer-director Ollie Verschoyle has crafted a hypnotic composite portrait of strangers who share one exquisitely crafted moment of interconnection in American suburbia. Using a unique mixture of fantasy and naturalism, it uses the tools of cinema to create a odd, beguiling synchronicity of consciousness when four strangers pierce through the veils of their individual realities to glimpse at the mysterious, beautiful present reality that connects them.

Verschoyle takes on both director and cinematographer roles, and the narrative and visual development in the film are yoked in a particularly intimate way. Exquisitely photographed with piercing clarity, the film has a precise eye for the small details of suburbia: the sprinklers, trees, lawns, signs, and cars that seem invisible to most people as they go about their daily lives.

The film’s achievement is how it seems to foreground this layer of sensory “detritus,” and in the act of bringing it attention, imbues the stuff of ordinariness with a mysterious beauty. Colors seems particularly important in this slice of the world, with yellow linking all the characters. The color of optimism and happiness, it seems to suffuse each character’s world with a particularly luminous light, elevating the ordinary.

Sound also plays a strong part in the overall musicality of the film. The score is particularly effective, both evocative and haunting, especially during the more traditionally suspenseful sequences of the short. The sound design is layered in an unusual way, connecting each separate character. There is no real traditional dialogue, underscoring a sense of the uncanny.

The editing has its own rhythm, attuned to the small shifts in sound, movement and light that link all the characters. Cuts often happen over matching movement, propelling character towards a moment of change. As the moment builds and unfolds, the interplay of sound and visuals seem to orchestrate themselves into a convergence, a collective “deep breath” that pierces through each character’s world and links them all together, by virtue of simply being alive at the same moment of time and space.

Some characters seems to be lost in the past, others frozen by fear and others simply present — but the pause takes them all out of their ordinary reality into a brief transcendence.

The title “Madeleine” evokes not a character name, but the famed madeleine pastry that plays such a pivotal role in Marcel Proust’s modernist literary achievement “In Search of Lost Time.” Like its literary antecedent, the short film is a poetic meditation about how we experience time, carrying the past and sometimes even the future in our present. Rarely, though, do we often look up out of our concerns and simply become alive to the world happening around us.

“Madeleine” creates that uncanny transcendent moment when we stop, pause and become aware of the magic behind the mundane surfaces of life — when we are aware of our aliveness, in fact, and see it for the remarkable feat that it is.




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