Yes! Yes! Yes! Everything about The Fourth Wall is a huge YES! This short film, written and directed by Kelsey Bollig, is a gloriously macabre and delirious black comedy that revels in its outlandishness.
Chloe (Lizzie Brocheré), an actress appearing in an unnamed play, is having a tough time reconciling her advancing age with her perception of beauty, something that happens to all of us at one point or another. Not helping her state of mind is the upstaging she receives by the younger, equally diva-esque Alice (Victoria Lacoste). Over the course of the evening’s performance, the show must go on as Chloe’s grip on her sanity becomes more and more unhinged, culminating in a shockingly violent curtain call.
Much of The Fourth Wall takes place backstage during the course of the play. In order to enhance the tunnel-like atmosphere that characterizes many small theater backstage areas, Bollig saturates the movie in haunting hues of deep reds and blues. The velvety color palette, combined with an unsettling industrial score by Sylvain Kauffman, affects an almost underground rave feel. Aside from being in French, The Fourth Wall reminds me in many ways of a piece of work that director/provocateur Gaspar Noé might produce. Specifically, his most recent film Climax, with the hypnotic tracking shots (the exceptional photography is courtesy of Ludovica Isidori) and the main character’s increasing madness.
“Over the course of the evening’s performance…Chloe’s grip on her sanity becomes more and more unhinged…”
The Fourth Wall invites subtle commentary on contemporary concerns, which, in this case, involves the pressure of women (and men) to maintain youth, beauty, and virility. The picture begins with Chloe examining herself in the mirror of her dressing room, asking of her reflection, “What is beauty?” before spitting at the reflection she sees as an inferior example. The focus on faces and reflections in the movie underscores the superficiality of such notions and the insecurity that accompanies them, especially as things get very ugly towards the end.
But it’s not all feverishness and insanity; there are some hilarious moments of comedy peppered throughout to relieve the tension. As Chloe and Alice engage in a heated argument in the dressing room, for example, the lone American in the cast, whose familiarity with the French language consists solely of her lines in the play, interrupts them and asks, “Are you guys running lines?” The comedy is used perfectly in order to counter the horror of the circumstances.
The Fourth Wall is a breathtaking combination of style and story, never sacrificing one for the other. The individually outstanding performances from the cast, confident direction from Kelsey Bollig, and the overall horrific dreamscape congeal into one of the nastiest yet most exhilarating pieces of film I’ve seen in a while.
"…a breathtaking combination of style and story."