Written and directed by Tomas Gold, grieving the death of her father, Tatev begins to sink lower into despondency as she prepares to return to Armenia for the funeral. Starring: Sona Burnham, Eliora Bénarroche and Elaine Makin.
Much like Tomas Gold’s previous short film Sérendipité de Deux, one of the biggest strengths of Tatev is how little it needs to say aloud, the meaningful and affecting quality to his direction says it all. The opening scene is fascinating in that there’s a quality to the music that’s just a touch offbeat which creates a slightly disorientating feel to it, which then feeds into the key emotions of the film, being fragile and lost in a place of intense grief. It then steps into its primary style which is in contrast inherently still and quiet, it holds a sincere amount of patience and confidence in creating something that’s minimal in a physical sense but strong in atmosphere. An atmosphere that keenly reflects a deep sadness, solitude and distance; its contemplative nature, mixed with the rich black and white almost gives an edge of Truffaut.
It’s not solely the direction that emphasises the emotions of its quiet reflection, it cleverly uses changes in the lighting to show the up and downs of Tatev’s mood. The sound editing also helps to push the progression forward, it breaks up the long periods of silence with natural and ambient sound, on top of the occasional dialogue. Grief and loss are tricky topics to tackle within 25-minutes so it was the right choice to lean more on the feel and atmosphere, keeping the writing simple but impactful, to let the emotions arise more naturally.
Sona Burnham has an interesting challenge with this role in that, a lot of her performance is facing away from the camera, the emotion can only be portrayed in her words and not her physical emotion. It’s a challenge that she meets well, she adopts a very lachrymose tone to her voice and slight dejectedness to her posture. Despite the fact that there isn’t much to learn about her character in a larger sense, she still manages to retain a lot of sympathy and relatability, in that the way the story is brought forth is very universal.
Tatev is a patient and affecting portrayal of grief, it moves gently and thoughtfully to allow the emotions of its story to arise naturally. The use of black and white adopts a great texture to the visual and emphasises the intense sadness, with Gold’s direction confidently building a strong atmosphere of loss and distance. There’s a sincere strength in how much Gold’s style manages to say, while not having to say anything at all.