Tuesday, August 14, 2012

PiFan 2012: The Crucible (시련, Silyeon) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 16th Puchon International Film Festival.

Among the Korean independent fare at this year’s PiFan there were some wonderful works that will likely enjoy healthy festival runs and should find wider audiences but along with the good there is inevitably going to be some bad. One film that will quickly be forgotten is a low-budget take on Arthur Miller’s famed play ‘The Crucible’. However, please don’t confuse this film with last year’s much-ballyhooed and far more worthwhile Silenced, which was originally known as The Crucible In English.

Though not particularly familiar with Miller’s play, it’s easy to see that the filmmakers behind this work got themselves a little too caught up in the mechanics of putting on a theater piece as well as their attempt at forging a meta-narrative around the staging of a play which begins to take on the story and themes of the work in question. The story is as follows: a student theater troupe preparing to perform their rendition of Miller’s play following the mysterious death of one of their cast members. One night during rehearsals things take a turn for the worse and the events that begin to unfold mirror those of the play.

This is the kind of project that requires a degree of experience behind the camera and unfortunately the novice filmmakers never moves beyond the theatrical setting, which puts into question its very existence as a feature. This filmed version of 'The Crucible' does little more than introduce us to a group of slight and unlikeable characters performed by a young troupe of actors with the collective charisma of a cardboard box.

I don’t doubt the noble intentions and the effort behind this production but I can fault its execution. From a technical perspective the production is sorely lacking. It’s poorly filmed and it’s clear that the sensibilities of those behind the camera belong on the stage. Rather than play out on one set, the film flits around numerous locations within a theatre building but it's hard to follow the action. Ironically every location looks the same. Stage technicians often do a great job of creating very distinct backdrops for plays to exploit one location but here each different room is as dreary and undistinguishable from the next. The murky lighting, which was far less atmospheric than I imagine it was intended to be, also adds a glum and dull weight to the film.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh, especially since I don't know the play very well. The film is certainly an honest effort that is both Brechtian and low-key but as it stands, The Crucible is a drab and far too self-serious affair. Furthermore, for a film concerning the staging of a revered play, it’s a little disappointing to find that the cast isn’t up to the task.


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