A strong film doesn’t have to be spectacular. This is because its strength doesn’t always have to consist in a narrative thread full of twists and turns, but in its sincerity. ‘Father’s Barn‘ is a short film built on this aesthetic principle, respecting the legacy of the great Italian neorealist masterpieces. Seungwoo Choi opts for a seemingly minor narrative stake, for the destiny of an ordinary character, of a “man without qualities” that the camera follows with the coldness of a passive observer. Likewise, the action itself is reduced, privileging long contemplative frames and implosive silences that hide behind a seemingly banal daily existence. The director proves a great courage through these options, since such a niche project risks getting lost in the multitude of increasingly flamboyant artistic visions of the moment. And yet, we are more than happy to be introduced to this short film that is as “modest” (at a superficial glance) as deep (in its essence).


This depth cannot be understood in the absence of watching the short film and therefore it cannot be reproduced in the words of a conventional synopsis. In brief, the short film depicts a fragment of the existence of a young man who, after his father commits suicide, must adapt to the routine imposed by working in a barn. This routine is, however, rendered by Seungwoo Choi with an almost cruel slowness, avoiding a consistent dialogue that goes beyond the pattern of a banal realism. Likewise, any “embellishment”, such as music or artificial lights, is missing, while the narrative progression is, in some places, cut by textual intermezzos taken from the father’s diary, but without these inserts providing an escape from this silent domestic inferno. The cinematography seems neutral, sometimes bland, but it is this mutism that draws the contours of an unbearable inner turmoil. The protagonist’s psychology is thus defined by its degree of endurance in the face of a relentless silence, in the face of a sterile existence that, in fact, reveals the absurdity of a daily cyclicity reducing the individual to some elementary mechanisms. ‘Father’s Barn’ is not a short film for everyone, and the director is certainly aware of this. However, his project hides in the substrates of its cinematic substance an intense experience that only a few projects really manage to express.


For its sincerity, for its apparent simplicity that actually hides the burden of a sterile existence and for the director’s courage to convincingly assume a niche aesthetic, ‘Father’s Barn’ was awarded with the 2nd Film of the Month distinction in the January 2021 edition of TMFF.