It’s chronic déjà vu, all over again. Or, maybe not…
Nick Zafonte’s fascinating short thriller, The First Day, takes place in a sterile room in what’s assumed to be a mental hospital. There, a very agitated patient sits strapped to a chair, in front of a tribunal of three stern doctors in matching grey lab coats. Seated in a row behind a long table, the doctors offer their analysis of the patient’s malady, along with their diagnosis and method of treatment.
Zafonte’s filmmaking is simple and to the point— and meshes magnificently with the plot’s seemingly uncomplicated message. A clock on the wall measures each progressive increment of time, but all we are allowed to see is a cropped version of the instrument, where only the bottom portion of a hand and the same few bars measuring seconds, are visible.
Josh Tyson is outstanding in the role of a patient suffering from a rare case of chronic, temporal lobe paramnesia. In this disease, the patient is unable to discriminate between memories and reality, and tends to merge the two. The un-named character Tyson portrays feels so real, that we begin to doubt that the film is a work of fiction at all. In addition, the actors playing the doctors are brilliant in regard to the stark realism projected, and what we assume would be the norm among physicians in the field of mental health.
But is that all there is to The First Day?
Perhaps not… If you are very vigilant about listening carefully to the dialogue and mannerisms of the doctors— and pay close attention to details of their jewelry and wardrobe—you will see certain inconsistencies of time. You may also determine that something diabolic may be lurking behind fine, hippocratic medicinal care.
I am very excited about Nick Zafonte’s little movie, that is absolutely not a simplistic work at all, but is really something philosophically provocative, both in terms of filmmaking itself, and all that we experience in the world.
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