An aging photography collector obsessed with death receives the final piece to his collection.
It ended up in my wrap-up article (you can read that here) as an “Honorable Mention” on my list of favorite shorts screened at the festival.
And it’s no wonder why.
It’s always impressive to me when a one location, two-character, 11-minute short can so deeply engage.
The film’s pace is a wonderful mirror to the elderly and slow-moving titular character (Richard Lippert). Listed as just “M” on the film’s IMDb page, this character collects antique photographs of the deceased (memento mori – Latin for “remember that you will die”). When his latest addition arrives via post, he does what he apparently does with every new piece in his collection. He examines it, catalogs it and frames it.
But there’s something special about this particular photograph.
Gabrielle Stone (daughter of legendary actress Dee Wallace) is the object of Mr. Memento’s latest acquisition. I’ll say no more, but “M” – upon further examination of this photo – has a striking and foreboding vision (amazingly realized for the screen — including some awesome stop-motion).
I may be seeing more than was intended (art is subjective my friends), but I have theories/suspicions about a possible deeper connection between the photograph’s subject and the aging collector. Whether or not I’m right, who knows? But there are clues as to a possible past history.
Visually, everything in this film works.
The dusty and barely green, almost grey quality of the film’s overall design (aside from the pops of red for a drop of blood, a fancy ribbon and a picture frame), perfectly sets the tone for this story. Obviously, the filmmakers wanted – like the translation of “memento mori” — for the viewers to always be aware of pending death. Noted.
I loved the timelessness of the piece. Certainly, the coloring offers up something of an antique look, but the story could be taking place at almost any time in the 20th century.
And the props. Oh, the props. I would have had a field day dressing this small set – and then taking home so many of the cool pieces (all of them?) for my own (admittedly) oddball dÃ©cor. Chemical jars, gorgeous picture frames and that amazing magnifying glass. Yes.
Don’t judge me for my decorating taste.
In fact, in my closing article for FilmQuest, I added a new category – making note of the props/costumes/set pieces I would love to own – from the many films screened at the festival. Mr. Memento was on that list – with a mention of the central photograph of the lovely Gabrielle Stone.
But beyond all of the stunning production values and the two lovely performances, there is an overwhelming sense of loss and regret – permeating from the screen. It’s a powerful mood set by the film and this short little visit into this world, will leave you wanting more – despite its beautifully realized melancholy.
In the aforementioned closing article for FilmQuest, I also listed Mr. Memento as one of the shorts which I’d love to see play out in a feature version.
Truly, there is a lot of material to be mined from this story, from Mr. Memento’s backstory, to the perceived connection with this particular photographic subject. And just imagine an entire feature’s worth of this stylish and atmospheric aesthetic! Delicious.
Mr. Memento is a marvelous exercise in setting a mood and telling a compact tale – all without the use of dialogue.
Do yourself a favor, and keep an eye out for either screenings at your local film festivals, or for a forthcoming online release.
Believe me, you’ll want to add this short to your collection.
Written and directed by Chris Heck, Mr. Memento is still playing the festival circuit.