Movies about diseases are always an intense experience attacking painful details that push any viewer towards a sensitive area, activating their empathy. However, there are certain films of this kind that provide an almost unbearable perspective on disease, since the director’s choice is precisely to eliminate the distance between the viewer and the character, introducing us into the personal perception of the protagonist. One such project that impresses not only by the accuracy with which it illustrates the effects of an inexplicable real illness, but also by the painful intimacy created between the spectator and the character is ‘Clustifer, which often forces the limits of our endurance to become familiar with the drama of a man confronted with the bizarre effects of cluster headache. Avoiding conventional narrative structures that also attack an epic thread adjacent to the perspective on the disease, director Karim Araman creates in his short film a demonic symphony as a continuous agonic nightmare, focusing strictly on the depiction of physical and emotional pain through a penetrating and staggering cinematic language. The pain thus achieves an overwhelming concreteness, materializing both in cruel crepuscular images capturing the victim’s spasmodic contortions, but also in almost dark incantation musical passages that enclose an authentic life experience in a gloomy universe haunted by the devilish spectrum of the disease. 


When pain strikes spontaneously, when you are nothing more than a mouse caught in the trap of a malicious feline preferring a slow torture instead of a sudden death, your body becomes your greatest enemy. Karim experiences this perverse form of captivity, daily facing the impossibility of understanding or overcoming the inexplicable agony of a mysterious headache.


The difficulty in rendering in a few words the plot of this short film comes precisely from the intelligence with which director Karim Araman manages to provide us with a brief and piercing overview of a subjective organic experience without using the classical principles of a narrative. At the same time, the protagonist illustrates the universal typology of the unfortunate victim or the incarnation of a destiny haunted by the presence of an unpredictable disease that challenges the coherence of a conventional dysfunction. Moreover, the apparent banality of the existence of this ordinary protagonist, who rather ticks the principles of the contemporary anti-hero, makes the devastating impact of the disease even more unbearable for the viewer. The happy ending can wait. ‘Clustifer’ thus marks a shocking experience that speaks of the pain of a character who at any time can be any of us.


For the intelligence with which the director creates a strange and coherent universe that impresses with the authenticity of the protagonist’s suffering and for the quality of the cinematic language that manages to crystallize in vibrant visual-musical passages the climax of physical and mental pain, ‘Clustifer’ was awarded with the 2nd Film of the Month distinction in the December 2019 edition of TMFF.