In a world fraught with fears there are few experiences as anxiety-inducing as job interviews. While a failed date resolves in an extended period of loneliness a botched interview affects your very livelihood. In its first few moments Ophelia opens up with the titular character cautiously entering a derelict hallway, the sounds of her heels punctuating each step towards a room of other applicants.
Given the inherently terrifying nature of the event his piece depicts, director Anthony Garland fittingly chose to shoot the film like a horror movie. There’s a constant air of tension, which succeeds due to it never growing too overbearing. Ophelia‘s most unsettling moments might have been flashier and more overt in other hands, but there’s an admirable amount of restraint that extends from the cut from shot to shot [Garland also edited the film] to the sound direction.
As for the interview itself, the theme appears to grapple with the director’s chosen genre. If job interviews, like horror films, are frightening then how do we address and manage that fear?
On one side are the interviewers, played by character actors with such extensive filmographies [Mary Pat Gleason, Alan Blumenfeld, and Larry Cedar] you’ll know you’ve seen them somewhere, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it. While they portray their own vaguely [and sometimes directly] menacing characters with ease it’s the woman sitting across from them who captures your attention. With only a handful of roles thus far Ali Mueller presents Ophelia as a woman with an unnerving confidence, a face so brave there must be another behind it. Given the nature of their conference there are spans of time without dialogue, and these moments allow her to communicate her thoughts with creased brow and pursed lips.
While the tone is generally effective, that also belies the film’s greatest risk. Like so many mainstream horror movies the ending may feel abrupt, and even unsatisfying, to some viewers.
Much like actual job interviews Ophelia is a tense, concise film that will leave you thinking back on what just happened and how it could have occurred so quickly.
Ophelia was an official selection at the 2016 Revelation Perth International Film Festival. As Best of Fest for this year’s LA Shorts Fest the short film began screening today at the LA Regal Live.
Drop by in the upcoming days for exclusive interviews with director Anthony Garland and actor Ali Mueller!