At the intersection of violence and forgiveness is James Ristas’ short film, Burn a Debt. Made to looks like an old 1950s arthouse teleplay, we follow the virginal Bernadette (Amber Myers) at the altar about to wed her beloved, yet abusive, Louis (Kris Salvi). Upon gazing at the figure of Jesus, Bernadette pledges her life to become a saint and don the virtues of patience, kindness, and chastity. The scorned Louis vows to live a life of violence if she doesn’t marry him and blame her for it.
Louis then goes on a rampage of violence, and Sarah (Samantha Noble Webb) is one of his victims. After an encounter with Bernadette, Sarah questions her lust for revenge. The film explores themes of war, pacifism, and forgiveness in a Salvador Dali-esque style. War is depicted through the use of little green army men alongside a slightly larger Jesus.
“…Bernadette pledges her life to become a saint…Louis vows to live a life of violence…”
Burn a Debt is more about the storytelling and visual presentation as a parable about violence. The acting is melodramatic and over-the-top. The contrast between good and evil is stark. Louis is Edward G. Robinson bad versus Bernadette’s saintly Mother Mary. These elements are not negatives as it’s all intentional on the part of writer/ director Ristas.
Burn a Debt is a 19-minute short film that captured my attention, and I appreciated the piece’s artistic quality as long as you see it as satire. I enjoy stories that take a not-so-serious approach to serious topics. Ultimately that’s what you get in the end.
"…more about the storytelling and visual presentation as a parable about violence."