Reviews Short Narrative

LOST (2023) – 5 stars

Director: Harvey Kadijk

Writer: Harvey Kadijk

Cast: Aristo Mijnals, Jihane El Fahidi & Alice Varela Monteiro

Running time: 10mins

Watching Harvey Kadijk’s latest film LOST has left me thankful in many ways. I am grateful, because it has reminded me to make the most of the people in my life, and to cherish the memories of those who have passed out of it. I am also appreciative of the fact I don’t have to venture out into public until the evening, because LOST has left me in an absolute state. But most of all, I am honoured that Kadijk continues to share his work – especially a piece which is so deeply personal – with Indy Film Library.

After IFL was finally granted public submissions status on FilmFreeway, Kadijk was one of the first filmmakers to take a chance on our service. The idea of sending your film to a festival which might reject your work is intimidating enough; but the fact the festival might also publicly savage said movie has put off many potential filmmakers from working with us. I am so glad that Kadijk took that risk, though, because it has been a privilege to see him evolve as a filmmaker.

From The Thing Is to DION, there were already clear signs of the artist that was developing. Having already exhibited a deft ability to balance eye-catching atmospheric and stylistic visuals with a measured, emotionally mature approach to a range of sensitive subjects in those films, LOST sees Kadijk also apply those skills to the script. What he delivers in that capacity is dialogue that understands how to let the emotional intensity of the subject matter breathe.

With every verbal beat, Kadijk allows for a contemplative period of stillness. By taking enough time to let us read between the lines, the end-product leaves us hanging on every word, sinking ever-deeper into a raw-yet-disciplined portrait of a grieving mind.

The efforts of the cast also deserve credit for realising this vision so faultlessly. Aristo Mijnals delivers a towering performance as protagonist Dalo; a giant whose love for Sarah (Jihane El Fahidi) seems to light up the room. As the pair bask in the glorious sunshine of one happy morning in bed, their thoughts turn to a beautiful future together. Mijnals’ Dalo conveys an endearing naivety about the news Sarah has gently awoken him for – while she gently tries to nudge him into guessing – El Fahidi sporting an infectious smile the whole time.

When Dalo finally gets the message, the blissful scene is interrupted by a cut-away of him standing by the communal bins, still clad in his pyjamas, jumping for joy to the confusion of passers-by. At first this moment feels out of place. But as the film progresses – and it becomes clear we are not watching a linear story from an outsider’s view, but rather a scrap-book of treasured memories from one perspective – this glimpse of Dalo’s mind manifesting his feelings in the moment he learned the news as a recollection of literal behaviour is entirely appropriate.

Following this up is a vertical rectangle of footage, taken using a smartphone. The happy couple are standing in a field of fluttering plastic – an artificial forest of red-and-white streamers, which billows around them, occasionally obscuring and separating them. As Dalo calls to Sarah, and lets her know how beautiful she is, the laughter of children running between the branches of plastic echoes all around. It’s the kind of organic reminder of the bright future that the couple is heading toward, underlining the hopes and fears of the moment in a way which is a billion times more potent than the mawkish piano score many lesser films would deploy here.

As for the shot itself, again, it’s something I might have reflexively found out of place in this film. There is a snobbery which suggests films should be shot through a traditional camera, in widescreen, if they are to convey emotional authenticity, while phone-footage only serves as an obnoxious reminder of the disingenuous, disposable economy of social media, in which users live through performatively conforming to various social expectations in front of their technology. But it feels like Kadijk is actually using this footage as a riposte of that admittedly cynical point of view.

Smartphones have inescapably changed the way we produce and consume culture. In many ways for the worse. But they have also allowed us to capture fleeting moments of beauty – moments which previous generations of technology might not have so easily captured, or which might have been unaffordable to many people. We readily tell people to ‘live in the moment’, and ‘stop living through your phone’ so flippantly, and yet when the years take their toll, we will each inevitably find ourselves scrolling through old footage on our phones to try and relive treasured interactions.

Like it or not, some of our most precious memories – in old footage, or even in our minds – will be vertical images. While the majority of people might not realise that yet, the last three years will have left a growing number of people – like Dalo – all too aware of it. Those memories, and those moments, are absolutely as valid as anything shot in conventional widescreen, or on old film. And for a filmmaker who seems to have been processing some terrible losses of his own through this production, that’s an extremely poignant cinematographic choice by Kadijk.

It would be wrong of me to talk in any detail about the film’s bittersweet finale. In so few words, it manages to reconcile a lost past with a hopeful future so effortlessly that every viewer deserves to witness it with fresh eyes. But in the shadow of the pandemic, I will say LOST’s final message is one which will surely resonate with audiences around the world.

In many ways, that message brings Stefanie Grunwald’s video for Get Better – a pandemic-centred project which also rendered me a sobbing mess – to mind. LOST is another stripped-back carousel of emotionally-charged imagery; its story speaks to a desperate desire to cling on to the past and its conclusion balances all that with an acknowledgement that the best way to keep our sacred memories alive is to look ahead and keep on living.

All this leaves me in a tricky place regarding my remit to help artists improve their films. While the last two films IFL received from Kadijk had room to recommend how he could strengthen his work for next time, there doesn’t seem to be anything I can say about LOST. At least, nothing besides “cut a trailer immediately”. The film currently does not have one, and I am sure this work will have screened at many film festivals before the IFL Awards shows it in April – so promotional materials will surely prove important in the meantime.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: