"Beneath the Veneer of a Murder"
Angel Connell has always done something different with his films, whether putting forth his own interpretation of popular music, or examining the correlation between sex and consumerism, Connell has never failed to impress me. His films are constructed with a depth that encourages the audience to look beyond the surface of the film. This was very clear with Connell's previous film, “Stocking Stuffers”, which could be enjoyed by a casual viewer on the merit of sheer entertainment and craftily written dialogue, yet still offered its audience an underlying statement, provided they were willing to look for it.
“Beneath the Veneer of a Murder” is not so lenient with the audience. Watching the film strictly for entertainment value will leave most unsatisfied. At only 8 minutes long, the majority of the film (the opening and closing credits) are spoken over by three of the film's central characters, two of which never even appear onscreen; there isn't even more than a couple of minutes of actual 'visual' screen time throughout the entire film. This is, however, vitally important to the film's structure.
We've been conditioned, as film-goers to assume that the opening and closing credits don't matter – the film between the final “Directed by” card and the start of the closing credit roll is all that matters. In most cases, the film doesn't even start until the end of the opening credits. Connell however, rewards his audience for sitting through this film from the opening frame to the closing frame. And it is a very rewarding experience to fully understand all the information the film gives you and how it works together to create what is ultimately a deceptively simple story.
Angel Connell's “Beneath the Veneer of a Murder” can most closely be related to films such as Antonioni's “Blow-Up”, DePalma's “Blow Out”, and even Dario Argento's “Deep Red” or “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage”. All are films in which we watch the protagonist piecing together a mystery of sorts from a piece of evidence which at first glance may seem like nothing. The difference is that Connell's film has no protagonist per se... it is us, the audience, that acts as the films central character, making sense of the events that occur onscreen by absorbing every bit of information the director gives to us, and trust me, everything said or done in this film is relevant.
With the film so reliant on voice overs, as well as visual action, it is a relief that the cast delivers their lines so well. The voice over narration is done very well, for the most part, and only stutter once or twice when the flow of dialogue seems slightly unnatural. Even more impressive are the actors onscreen, Eric Scheiner and Christy Scott Cashman, who shared acting duties on the director's previous film are both excellent, Cashman the frightened victim of the titular murder, and Scheiner, her assailant. While I wasn't completely sold on Scheiner after his appearances in both “Stocking Stuffers” and “She's So Cold” he seems very comfortable in the role of a villain, playing his part menacingly, with a small amount of over-the-top camp, suggesting he's genuinely having fun with the part.
To be perfectly honest, I did deliberate slightly about giving this film a slightly lesser rating, due to the fact that it simply is not as accessible to general audiences as Connell’s previous films. Some may find it frustrating, not willing to give the intellectual investment required to truly understand Connell's intentions. However, it was I who was failing to completely understand that short films are often not meant for general ‘consumption’. They are more often an artistic showcase, an opportunity to express an opinion, and a means of cinematic experimentation. “Beneath the Veneer of a Murder” is all of these, and it succeeds in every aspect of its intention.