Many filmmakers will tell you that short films are the training ground leading up to the big feature film. Whether you’re a writer, director, or actor, the short is the way to hone your craft and get something made that represents your art.

Smart filmmakers will take the short and use it as a self-imposed challenge to conquer. Really smart filmmakers will focus on a single challenge and do it well. The challenge facing writer/director Jeremy Comte in his short, Fauve, is to evoke the emotion of dread and anxiety in the audience and sustain it from start to finish.

Fauve is the story of two boys, Tyler (Félix Grenier) and Benjamin (Alexandre Perreault) playing along the train tracks passing a nearby surface mine. While exploring an abandoned train car, the two play an unusual game of one-upmanship as they try to fool one another and collect a point for each successful attempt. These pranks are juvenile and for the most part harmless, like hiding from the other and leaping out for the scare, or falling off the room of the train and pretending to be hurt. The spirit of the game is aggressive pranking and that sets in motion this feeling that something horrible is about to happen.

“The spirit of the game is aggressive pranking and that sets in motion…something horrible…”

One moment Benjamin spots a fox in the field and tells Tyler to turnaround and look. Sensing this is a trick, Tyler refuses to look but spins around just after the fox disappears. It’s unclear, who got the point.

Next, the two boys head toward the surface mine and begin to play around the private property. Suddenly a large construction vehicle bursts out of nowhere chasing the boys down to the bottom of the mining pit. There Tyler steps in some kind of cement-like quicksand. His foot is stuck, and he begins screaming to Benjamin for help. Benjamin thinks this is a prank and refuses to help him.

With all his might, Tyler frees himself from the ground. Angry, Tyler shoves Benjamin into the sand as a “prank.” Not only is Benjamin stuck, but he is sinking fast. Not wanting to get stuck again, Tyler looks for anything that could help pull his friend to safety. Tyler runs to the top of the pit looking for help as Benjamin screams for help.

“…Grenier brilliantly says a lot without ever saying a word. You feel everything his character is feeling right in your gut..”

Here we’re halfway through the 17-minute short, and for the balance, we follow Tyler as he deals with the consequences of his actions and its repercussions. Good, young actors are like treasure. As Tyler, Félix Grenier brilliantly says a lot without ever saying a word. You feel everything his character is feeling right in your gut and none of it is good.

Honestly, I sat there unable to look at the screen at times. The anxiety was overwhelming, which is impressive considering there’s nothing inherently gruesome or gory on screen. All the emotions come from events that took place off-screen or from the performance of Grenier.

Comte’s challenge in Fauve was to take an emotion and from the start slowly build up its intensity. In the middle, he sustains it. At the very end, he takes a nice, sharp needle and pops it for a powerful finish. Challenge met.

Fauve (2018) Written and directed by Jeremy Comte. Starring Félix Grenier, Alexandre Perreault. Fauve screened at the 2018 San Diego International Film Festival.

8 out of 10 stars

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