Nox, a short film written and directed by Keyvan Sheikhalishahi, is slipped to you under the table. There aren’t any hellos or goodbyes, and certainly no eye contact. It’s all very discreet, like two spies on a park bench, looking in different directions while they talk. Considering the movie’s content, this attitude is entirely warranted.
Two burglars are scavenging a well-to-do home, but robbing the place is the least of their concerns. They’re caught up in one of those shady, political back-stabbings that cuts deep and then moves the knife around for maximum pain. By which I mean, it extends beyond politics—which is nasty enough—and into personal lives. They discuss their mission in vague terms, events happen out of order, and there’s clearly some contention between them as if they’re not comfortable with the job. You’re given just enough to get a decent grip on what’s happening, which means you’re spared from any information downpours or exposition-laced dialogue. Considering some story-heavy short films play like moving synopses, this is a welcome approach.
“Two burglars are scavenging a well-to-do home…”
By playing hard to get, Nox becomes infinitely more interesting. What is probably a simple revenge plot is bolstered by your own projection and filling in the blanks, which is satisfying to do in and of itself. It’s a primo example of how less is more—you take out pieces of a narrative, and suddenly it seems like the story knows something you don’t. It’s the old “better to keep quiet and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt” logic, but applied to storytelling. And what do you know? It holds.
The performances never do anything to break the illusion, and the photography goes beyond what you’d expect for an indie short film. You even get one of those cool shots where wavy light is reflected onto a house from a fancy pool. Aside from smoking a cigarette under a streetlight, there’s nothing quite so noirish as the nighttime reflection of a pool. With a short film as quiet and restrained as this one, such cinematic flairs serve more than just a superficial purpose; they set the mood and go even further in cementing the idea that the movie has something up its sleeve, even if it doesn’t.
Despite centering around what is presumably a nuanced political scandal, Nox doesn’t spend much of its short runtime trying to cram in the details. It picks out the cornerstones, then surrounds them with a good bit of flair and a straight-faced tone. Since it’s relatively easy to imagine a different version of this movie that grabs you by the earlobe and funnels its inane, overly complicated plot straight into your canal, you’re even more inclined to like it.
"…by playing hard to get, Nox becomes infinitely more interesting."