“BEFORE I GO,” Mark Morgenstern, Ewola Cinema, 2014.
Reviewed by Eleni Zisimatos, Vallum Magazine, 2014.
Mark Morgenstern’s film, “Before I Go,” in competition at the Festival du nouveau cinema, and which premiered at Cinema du Parc in Montreal October 12th, is about the movements of a house. It is not a ‘home,’ there are no puppies or kittens or soft fluffy images. The cinematography is bleak. There is focus on parts of the house requiring repair. But it would seem that the most central part of this strange, haunting, is the house’s need for attention. Although it is dismembered and dismantled, there are figures who appear as fragments, figures who would seem to belong there, but who have no identity, as they are portrayed in the film. There is a disconnect between the physicality of the house and the physicality of the human forms. It is almost as if the two are caught in some kind of disparagement of time—and they cannot communicate. The ‘house’ is often considered to be symbolically associated with the psyche. Bachelard has written on the importance of the home and how it is central to one’s conception of identity. Morgenstern shows us the house and he shows us some human forms, but there is no relationship between the two. The house is not a home, in Bachelard’s interpretation of home. So, what is this house we observe, so closely, so fearfully?
Morgenstern’s technical brilliance and associative cinematography are so impressive that one is left breathless. The house is trying to speak—is it a haunted house? It very well could be. The most chilling part of this film is towards the end, with a woman sitting on a bed, with her back towards us. She could easily be construed to be some kind of ghost or figure of madness. We seem to drift with this woman’s presence, and this is a key point in the film where I felt a truly dangerous ‘presence.’ The house needs attention. The psyche would seem to be unraveling.
The magnificence of this short film is that it creates the aura of exteriority. We are not inside it, even though we view inside the physical house. And this is what many family houses are like in today’s soulless and mindless societies. Morgenstern’s, “Before I Go,” is a cutting-edge portrayal of the breakdown of the family unit, of the suffering of individuals who try to create community and communion within their houses, but fail. And the true horror is that families today--no longer within a caring and nurturing environment or a home—are transformed into objects in an essentially mad series of unconnected pieces and parts. This is the stunning force behind this film.