Short Film Review: Girl and a Scar (dir by David Cave)

I always enjoy watching and reviewing short films.

The short film format challenges both the filmmaker and the viewer.  For the filmmaker, the challenge is to take the audience on a full cinematic journey in a limited amount of time.  It’s one thing when you have two hours to tell a story, it’s something entirely different when you’ve only got 15 minutes.  As a result, the visuals and the acting become even more important.  You can’t have one wasted shot or one performance that feels out-of-place.  For the viewer (and the reviewer, for that matter), the challenge is to relearn how to watch a movie.  Short films force you to pay attention to every single detail because, often times, it’s only through catching those details that you’ll be able to understand what you’ve just seen.  In short films, there’s no time for the director or screenwriter to come back, take you by the hand, and say, “This is what it all means.”  Instead, it’s up to you to figure it out.  I love a challenge and that’s why I always appreciate and enjoy the chance to watch and review a short film.

For instance, I recently had a chance to watch Girl and a Scar, a 15-minute film from moviemaker David Cave.  It’s a challenging film, one that is full of surreal imagery and haunting atmosphere.  While the ever-present wind howls on the soundtrack, we find ourselves looking at an isolated house, one that would not be out-of-place in a Jean Rollin vampire film.  Inside the house, the Girl (Ileana Cardy) cuts herself with a razor blade.  Throughout the movie, the wound grows, almost as if it has a mind of its own.  We see the Girl outside, standing in front of what appears to be an industrial park and watching as a young man walks away from her and then as a man in a … well, I’m not going to spoil the details.  Let’s just say that she’s approached by a man in a very memorable costume.  In between the scenes of the Girl walking along the beach and stumbling through her isolated home, there are snippets of animation.  We see the girl in the forest, a cartoon that is occasionally eating and occasionally throwing up.  Connecting it all is the sound of that howling wind and that ever-growing wound on the Girl’s stomach.

The imagery is frequently shocking and disturbing and yet, because Cave does such a good job framing his images and maintaining the film’s atmosphere, the film is always watchable.  It helps that Ileana Cardy, though having no dialogue, gives a good and empathetic performance as the Girl.  You may not always understand what is happening to here but you want to understand and that’s the important thing.  From the minute it opens, Girl and a Scar invites you to investigate and try to solve its mysteries.  With the mix of body horror and animation, Girl and a Scar at times feels like a fairy tale told by David Cronenberg.

Short films are not necessarily easy to track down but I do recommend making the effort.  Hopefully, this one will soon start making the festival circuit.