The archetypal figure of the double is cinema’s most often used trope to communicate notions of the uncanny. By definition, the double resembles the familiar original, yet remains another, a stranger. As ontologically both lie in the realm of the visual, it seems somewhat natural that cinema plays so well and often with the doppelganger archetype. Directors such as Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo, 1958), Ingmar Bergman (Persona, 1966), Krzysztof Kieslowski (The Double Life of Veronique, 1999), and David Lynch (Twin Peaks, 1990/1991/2017, Mulholland Drive, 2001), etc. have contributed immensely to the development of the double in film language.
Heavily influenced by Vertigo and Mulholland Drive, director Matt Mercer creates Play Violet For Me – a 12-minute long noir-ish short that follows the aftermath of a murder. After finding his lover, Violet (Najarra Townsend), dead in her kitchen, Foley (played by the director himself) meets with Lyla (again Najarra Townsend), Violet’s sister, to inform her about the tragic event. As the two converse, the story of what happened becomes more and more twisted for Foley as he realises the two sisters have been swapping identities all along.
Paying tribute to Film Noir, Play Violet For Me often emphasises on gestures and mood rather than dialogue. The gestures that the characters exchange, such as touch and cigarette smoking are of lager importance than dialogue, as they are the only sources of truth when words have proven unreliable. Another element that builds the noir-ish feeling is, of course, the use of black and white in the film. Opposite to conventions, when a scene happening in the present would be shot in colour, while a memory – indicated in black and white, Play Violet For Me explores its past in colours, and leaves monochrome for the present. That works well for the purposes of the film, as it is not Foley’s past but his present that suddenly becomes dark and unclear.
There is a certain theatrical estrangement to the performances which, combined with the dreamy soundtrack by Keeley Bumford and Mark Hadley, takes the spectator to a sort of a Lynchean world, preparing a setting from the beginning for the strangeness of the story about to unfold.
Atmospheric and smartly built, Play Violet For Me is a short film worth seeing. At times, the film might imperfect and still rough in the edges,opting for a degree of Lynchean melodrama, an approach whose credibility requires a very specific treatment. Because of that, Play Violet With Me occasionally leans towards self-parody, threatening to ruin its world before the building has been finished. Yet, the mood remains persistently throughout. Regardless or maybe precisely because of its weak spots, the film’s creative editing decisions and storytelling techniques make it a must-see for all aspiring filmmakers working to develop a short film.