Among Us

By Stephan Eigenmann | Drama
A young pianist discovers she's going deaf, then fights for her future as musician.

Anna is a young pianist, and music has been her passion since a very young age when she joined a prestigious music academy. But now Anna is losing her hearing.

Becoming hearing-impaired is devastating for the young artist, who becomes angry, withdrawn and upset. It affects her work, and soon her place at the academy is endangered. But Anna's biggest obstacle may be the tumult of her past and her raw anger at herself.

Written and directed by Stephan Eigenmann, this short drama explores the passions and pain of a young musician coming to terms with the loss of her hearing, which strikes at the heart of her talent and identity in the world. But in doing so, she has to confront other difficulties in her past, as well as her demons.

It's fitting that a film about music has an approach to storytelling that resembles music itself, creating cinematic flights of fancy powered by feeling and atmosphere. Using elegantly swooping camerawork, beautifully moody light and little dialogue, it weaves between Anna's past and present, from her origins as a prodigiously talented young girl attending auditions with her mother to home footage of her practicing at home to her present, where she confronts the loss of her hearing with her grandmother at her side.

Many sequences are set to beautiful music, and the score guides the flow of the narrative in an almost impressionistic manner. As Anna struggles, her performance at the academy deteriorates, with her teachers unaware of what is happening to her. A sharp eye also detects a change in her family life, which also informs Anna's struggles during this period, and an excellent sound design allows us to drop into Anna's subjectivity, hearing the world as she does, as an interwoven melody of muffled sounds and music.

Actor Kat Bugarin plays Anna in near silence, capturing the turmoil under a surface often immobilized by depression and grief. But there is also grit and resilience in her, as Anna turns to music to make sense of the inner chaos -- and restores the central passion of her life to its rightful place.

Absorbing, emotive and lyrical, "Among Us" is less a conventional narrative and more like a piece of music itself, with viewers awash in waves of music and emotion that flow and swirl, bringing up detail and insight with each pass. Like much of the music of another musician who struggled with losing their hearing, the film explores intense, haunting emotion, and then resolves into a more hopeful place -- as a young woman learns to play music for herself, directly from the heart, and finds peace on the other side.

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