The structure is quite simple and familiar: two men fighting, plus a femme female that decisively changes the rules of the game. Indeed, ‘Masks‘ starts from a pattern well-known by the general public, but this short film is more than that, because what director Bartek Cebula does goes beyond psychological schematism, concentrating in a seemingly banal scenario uncomfortable essences of human reactivity. Because this short film, like many of the good films of the moment, starts from a familiar premise that it explores in depth, reaching those implacable and recognizable nuances of our nature. Because the stakes of this project are not the spectacularism of cinematic prestidigitations, but the narrative minimalism from which the valences of subjective truth, hidden behind our everyday decisions, erupts. Because “less is more”, and cinema doesn’t need very complicated narrative structures to sincerely hypothesize the manifestations of the human soul. The reasons – no matter how simplistically formulated – may continue, but this simplicity doesn’t come from a lacuna in this project, but, on the contrary, from the inability of the spectator to express in elaborate words the impact with the emotional authenticity of the protagonists of this short film. Because this authenticity encoded in cinematic language, this daily realism, lacking visceral or miserable nuances, doesn’t need elaborate explanations to create connections with our sensitivity.
Aleks is a talented fencer who prepares for an important competition. But Emilia, the sister of his opponent, Jack, will radically change the emotional involvement of the protagonist in the fight for the trophy. So Aleks must choose as soon as possible if he will fight against Jack or against his own fencer honour to fulfil Emilia’s wish.
By choosing an effective cinematic minimalism, focused on a linear action based on a well-calculated emotional crescendo, Bartek Cebula is a director of psychological subtleties, concerned not by the outer magnitude of the action of the characters but by their invisible inner metamorphoses. Thus, his concern for almost imperceptible details that reconfigure in a current formula the disastrous mechanics of a trio of characters is materialized in an empathic experience, enhancing the expressiveness of the perfectly polished cinematography that preserves the effective proportions to be neither incomplete, nor redundant. ‘Masks’ is the project of a director who has reached his artistic maturity, a director we are extremely glad to admire and to award in our festival.
For the simplicity of the narrative thread, for its emotional consistency, for its psychological subtleties that condemn the multitude of social masks of individuals, but also for its clean and effective directing that attacks the sore areas of the human soul, ‘Masks’ was awarded the Film of the Month distinction in the April 2019 edition of TMFF.