Superprime Films, 2019
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Movies and TV shows about drugs or with disorienting presentations
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Most film students are no stranger to the term “auteur,” often used to describe a well-known filmmaker with a signature style. Indeed, some writer/directors become well-known for the universes that they consistently represent. Maybe their characters speak in monotone voices and are void of facial expressions. Maybe their movies always have a clever plot twist at the end. Maybe every feature of theirs has at least 78 and a half explosions in it. Regardless, their personal taste is reflected in every project they undertake, including short films. While they are often meant to give investors a sense of story or universe, short films can also provide interested parties with a sense of the director’s personal style. Director Yorgos Lanthimos effectively pulls this off in his 2019 short Nimic.
Nimic stars Matthew Dillon as the nameless protagonist, a routine-oriented family man and professional cellist. He has a wife and three children and plays for a classical string ensemble. One day while riding the train, he asks a stranger for the time in what turns into a regretful encounter. She recites his question, then follows him home in an effort to take his place as the husband and father figure. Though it at first seems ludicrous, his wife and children seem nonplussed by the presence of the stranger and willingly accept her as his replacement.
As a feature, Nimic would likely include a second and third act of the protagonist attempting to regain control of his life. However, being the short film that it is, Yorgos Lanthimos’s project simply serves as a snippet reflecting his storytelling. Known as an existentialist, Lanthimos often depicts a bleak existence where characters feel very forgettable or replaceable, hence Matt Dillon’s character. The stranger he encounters demonstrates her ability to fill his role in the family and string ensemble so aptly that he may as well be invisible. In order to reflect this replicability, Lanthimos often presents humorless characters with no inflection in their voice (i.e. Dr. Steven Murphy in The Killing of a Sacred Deer), as these features would make someone seem unique and endearing. Adding to the existentialist vibe is the fact that none of the characters in the film have a specified name. Dillon’s character, once followed home by the stranger, addresses his kids simply with a collective “children.” Most reflective of Lanthimos’s philosophy is the short film’s title itself, which is Romanian for “nothing.”
The ominous tone of Nimic is reinforced with a soundtrack filled with strings being played violently, inducing anxiety in multiple scenes. The music is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho soundtrack and is consistent with Lanthimos’s longer projects. From both a technical standpoint and a philosophical perspective, Nimic, in just 12 minutes, precisely conveys to a viewer unfamiliar with Yorgos Lanthimos what to expect in his other works.