We have become so accustomed to living in an artificial world that we often come to misinterpret the attitudes of those around us who shatter the norms of the conventional social label. Attacking a delicate emotional trauma without avoiding any sensitive topics that debate domestic monstrosity or the difficulty of forgiving an obsessive past, ‘Whales‘ is an uncomfortable and intelligent artistic exercise about the unfriendly consequences of a family who prefers to sacrifice the mental comfort of their own daughter in favour of the appearances that preserve an impeccable social image. Without opting for a narrative formula tackling the theme of tolerance or emotional hygiene that oblivion can bring, Nora Jaenicke’s project consists of an objective, surgically cold, panorama about dysfunctional family relationships, being paradoxically conceived on the visual principles of a sort of kinetic painting whose attractive chromaticity rendering the exotic spaces of an Italian island seems to function as a contrastive element that further emphasizes the spiritual degradation of the modern individuals obsessed with their own image. Incisive, emotional and magnetically visual, like a film by Nanni Moretti, this short film challenges the spectators to introspection, putting them in front of a moral dilemma that will make them reconsider their way of referring to concepts such as family or emotional inter-human relationships which are filtered through the deceptive mechanism of a society that tends to privilege superficial layer to the detriment of affective content.
After their mother dies, two sisters, Margot and Louise, reunite after many years to try to save their compromised relationship. The problem is that the way Louise, the sister who left her family for apparently unknown reasons, interacts with Margot and Johnny (Margot’s partner) sparks latent animosities between them until the man violently reacts, wishing to chase away this eccentric and inconvenient person. However, behind Louise’s more or less ostentatious attitude, there is a dark secret, a traumatic past that needs to emerge.
Misleading by the attractive visual grammar through which the director’s eye filters the human misery of a past that has blown the paradisiacal existence of the two sisters, Nora Jaenicke’s project excels through the suggestive force of the melange between image and script. Not by chance, the narrative premises of this short film defy the expectations of the spectator who, at some point, seems to witness the compositional structure of a thriller, but which the filmmaker manages to counterbalance through scenes of trembling sincerity whose inartificial emotion turns the whole project in an authentic incursion through the family dramas of the modern individual. Even if it is not a film that provides answers (but only reveals some wounds of a lying and alienated world), being based on highly well-designed visual and sequential coherence, ‘Whales’ is both an exciting and caustic artistic experiment about the small crimes of the current family standards that are still hiding behind the impeccable images that populate our social universe.