Certain directors create extraordinary cinematic experiences precisely by the fact that they manage to temper the “spectacular” impetus making them exaggerate with an ostentatious cinematic formula. The apparent simplicity of such projects hides, in fact, not only a clear artistic vision and a well-articulated intention but also a structural coherence supported by impeccable technical precision. Jacob Thomas Pilgaard proves all these qualities through ‘Incident at School‘, avoiding the trap of exploiting an extremely sensitive subject through a melodramatic attitude. Thus, his film maintains a constant tension that induces the viewer a state of slow-burn terror, through an aesthetic formula that seems to be inspired, on the one hand, by Michael Haneke’s films, and, on the other hand, by the style of many new wave directors that continue the Italian neorealism. Likewise, through the chosen narrative stakes, the director creates a parallelism with the events from Columbine or with the film “Elephant”, signed by Gus Van Sant, opting, however, for a much more temperate, “aseptic” style when building the main character.


More precisely, the project depicts almost 20 minutes of pure horror felt by a young student during an armed attack orchestrated by some of her colleagues. However, this monstrous event will help her reconsider her family relationships, even if that phone call with her mother might be her last.


Technically, Jacob Thomas Pilgaard opts for long frames, a close-up without musical ornaments that captures without interruption the emotions felt by the protagonist in an almost obscene exercise in contemplating her panic. As in most experiments of this kind, this cinematic construct doesn’t lack broken words, episodes of convulsive panic or moments of tense silence, all supported by a “hors champ” that gives the cinematic space a special volumetry to catch the viewer in an immersive experience. Obviously, the emotional impact of such a project is largely due to the lead actress who gives us an impeccable, well-dosed performance far from an excessive “theatrical” attitude. All these are just a few details that convinced us that ‘Incident at School’ is by far one of the best short films we’ve selected and awarded at our festival.


For the precision and professionalism with which the director builds this intense, painfully authentic cinematic experience and for the talent with which the lead actress embodies an extreme emotional shock, ‘Incident at School’ was awarded the Film of the Month distinction in the August 2021 edition of TMFF.