Reviews Short Narrative

Momo or Moses (2023) – 3.5 stars

Director: Charif Ounis

Writer: Charif Ounis, Luca Jonas Müller & Luisa Schumacher

Cast: Luca Jonas Müller & Luisa Schumacher

Running time: 4mins

Momo or Moses is a four-minute scene, depicting a dying man’s last conversation with a nun. The story sees him sparring with his well-meaning counterpart, unwilling to let her off the hook for the way the church has treated the LGBT+ community. In many ways, it is unremarkable – and yet it never feels like a waste of time either.

The framing of the pair is largely flat – obeying the rule of thirds and the other cinematic staples necessary to know who is speaking to whom, but offering up little of interest beyond that. The make-up applied to ensure we are aware of what is killing the man is not the worst attempt at ‘lesions’ seen on this platform, though it still seems to have required the film to completely drain all the colour from its imagery to be really effective. And the script – written by the director, Charif Ounis, with help from his two stars – is not free of charms, but its dialogue is lacking a certain edge you might expect from a dying homosexual in the company of someone representing a religion that has long told him he is going to hell.

Even then, trying to judge whether Momo or Moses is successful hinges on what you think it was meant for. With the kind of cynical skewering of silly religion – “Why did God become a burning bush? Why not send Moses a letter instead? – that you would more likely find in a sixth-form debate club than this most grave of contexts, if the idea was to showcase the team’s writing – it’s a write-off. But in other areas, things could not be more to the contrary.

In particular, if this was a film made to showcase the range of its lead actors, it is a stunning accomplishment. In under four minutes, Luca Jonas Müller displays an emotional versatility as Kai that other actors would struggle to manage in four hours. As an early victim of the AIDS epidemic, he moves from wry gallows humour, to gut-wrenching hacking coughing fits, to earnest admissions of love and loss seamlessly. It’s a hell of a performance, and would no doubt catch the eye of more than a few casting directors.

At the same time, it would be easy for anyone to fade into the background against such capability. But Luisa Schumacher more than holds her own as Philomena, managing to subtly convey conflicts of her own. The initial barrage of unwavering good will, and preaching about the trials of Moses, comes to a juddering halt when Kai tells her mid-sentence “Silence isn’t really your thing, is it?” Initially shock settles across the young nun’s face, before a returning determination, as she realises listening to people about their experiences – and adapting what you believe accordingly – might be the real key to comforting them.

The clip comes to an abrupt conclusion, without an end credits sequence, just as it feels like it was getting started. That’s a shame in many ways. Of all the reasons which this scene might have been made, the one which matters most to this platform is the one in which it is least convincing. It isn’t a finished film.

What it seems to be is a proof-of-concept – perhaps put together in the hope that a production company might throw some money behind this talented cast, and its capable director. I sincerely hope that works out for the crew, because I for one would like to spend some more time with these characters, in a place where there was also more space for a little more subtlety in its script. And if that film ever does get made, I’m confident it could be a real 5-star affair.

There is such a clear abundance of potential shining through in this micro-production – even if many things seem to have been stripped back and simplified, to help the film give as much context as possible within which its two actors can concentrate on delivering outstanding performances. If that was with a view to making a longer film, I think it was the right decision. With a bigger budget and run-time, I think those rough edges could be ironed out, and more opportunities for visual and narrative originality might be found.

1 comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: