HOLLYSHORTS 2020 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! Mariana (Taylor Cloyes) is left abandoned in an ill-lit, dirty hotel room. She is clearly distressed, as she’s being haunted and hunted by a dark force (Craig Ng), with no foreseeable end in sight. As Mariana fights for her life, regardless of what that requires, she will have no choice but to face the unforgiving Inferno of her reality. Can the bewildered woman fight her way to freedom, or will the darkness consume her and take her to an early grave?
Six minutes leaves nearly no time for writer-director Bishal Dutta to develop the story and see it play out to its fullest potential. However, he finds ways to manipulate what is done throughout Inferno to produce levels of mystery that compel viewers to ask themselves a number of questions: who is Mariana? Why is she in this predicament? What exactly is hunting her? While these questions are never fully answered, Dutta uses the carefully built up suspense to force viewers to answer these questions on their own.
While it might typically feel underwhelming to provide your own answers to a movie, the noir style of Inferno helps you accept this fact. As the audience attempts to familiarize themselves with the content and the context of the film, their wheels begin turning, providing some semblance of an explanation, allowing all audience members to enjoy what is taking place thoroughly.
“…left abandoned in an ill-lit, dirty hotel room…she’s being haunted and hunted by a dark force…”
The ambiguity of Inferno impels viewers to accept that the reality of the film takes place is one where nearly anything is possible. Darkness plays out as a character opposite Mariana, giving audiences an instant reason to root for her. As this intense darkness fills the screen and engulfs Mariana, the film’s success hinges almost entirely on whether or not Cloyes is capable of delivering genuine emotion. From the opening moments, she provides unspoken insight into her character and the situation. While nothing is ever entirely determined, Cloyes is unmistakably brilliant in her nonverbal articulation of the dilemma she’s facing down.
She utters only one word throughout the course of the film: “No.” And that’s more than enough. The sweat and tears that drip down her face, the trembling of her lip, and the constant, heavy breathing that fills the space in the room are what make her performance remarkable. Left to nothing but her own devices and the absence of light, Cloyes proves her worth and delivers a performance that is, and I don’t believe I’m overselling this, Oscar-worthy.
The perpetual darkness, the absence of dialogue, and Dutta’s ability to make viewers reach their own conclusions rather than provide definitive answers combine to deliver levels of ambiguity that genuinely entice viewers, keeping them engaged. Inferno feels like a novel with the final pages ripped out when, in reality, it’s one that encourages individuality and acceptance as the audience forms their own understanding of what is taking place. By encouraging independence throughout, viewers are able to find little wrong with the movie and ultimately accept the fact that it is truly marvelous.
Inferno screened at the 2020 Hollyshorts Film Festival.
"…Cloyes...delivers a performance that is...Oscar worthy."