American Quartet Is Powerful Filmmaking
American Quartet is a deeply political short film detailing a societal divide in a small town. It’s set in a future where mental recording, both objective and subjective, is possible with small devices resembling leather smartphone cases. And while that already is a complicated thing to attempt in a 9-minute film, American Quartet has no spoken dialogue and uses a string quartet soundtrack as a way of communicating both tone and pace.
And, as you might imagine, having this much happening in a film of this length is going to result in two possibilities. Either things get breezed past, or things must be too extremely dense with meaning to avoid something being lost by the audience. Once I got enough of the plot, though, American Quartet showed itself to be a brilliant exploration of basic empathy being utterly transformative. However, I will fully admit to needing several viewings and there’s still likely more to be understood and unpacked.
American Quartet Is A Densely Packed Short Film
But when parts click, they click. Certain scenes are poignant specifically because you don’t get words: you get faces. You get the expressions of a woman being attacked for nothing she did and fearing for her life. You get guilt and change appear in a racist’s eyes as he’s forced to really see who he’s attacking. That’s something dialogue would mar extremely; detract not add to what’s there.
American Quartet isn’t perfect, but it is important. The gimmick is not a gimmick, but an artistic choice. The effects are charming. The acting effectively operatic. The string soundtrack is not intrusive, it’s part of this future world of hyper emotion, of a time where human memories both precious and painful can be shared, stored, and relived. Though reminding me of an episode of Black Mirror in its science fiction, this is instead a message of hope. Of what being able to see other’s experiences can do. Even if American Quartet sings its story off pitch, or perhaps in a way that’s hard to hear, it’s got the soul of good art and the talent behind it to communicate its message well and that makes it worthwhile and a success.
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