At one time or another, we’ve all asked ourselves this one very crucial hypothetical question… “If I could have any one super power, what would it be?” For myself, it’s always been a toss up between invincibility or a Wolverine-like healing factor that’s off the charts. Then again, there’s something very intriguing about the powers of the mind. For Marvel comics fans, you understand the allure of Charles Xavier and Jean Grey, holding telepathic abilities with no rival, but with these great powers — no, I wasn’t going to say “comes great responsibility” — with these powers come a certain threat to one’s own sanity, in theory.
By now, you must be wondering why I’ve been rambling on about super heroes. To clarify, AFFLICTION is not about super heroes… well, not in the traditional sense. This 15-minute short film, written and directed by Amir Masud, chases the concept of having super powers down a much darker rabbit hole. Sara (Abigail Mittel Culwell) is a mentally unstable young woman who acquired a powerful telepathic ability, but finds herself torn between her need of these powers to do good and the unintended residual harm they cause.
AFFLICTION is a dark drama, but plays out like a Gothic episode of Tales From the Crypt, a marvelously sumptuous experience for my personal tastes in film, especially considering Sara is a fair-skinned, somewhat frail but sexy redhead with intense telepathic powers. Yes, I am making a correlation to Jean Grey/Marvel Girl, but also indirectly to the saga of Phoenix/Dark Phoenix that I am vaguely reminded of when watching AFFLICTION.
The opening shot of AFFLICTION — which also immediately displays Masud’s uncanny eye for effectively dynamic camera work — introduces us to Sara, wearing a sexy red dress, as she falls to the floor and slips into what appears to be a seizure. Within these same opening seconds of the film, we realize Sara has a profound religious belief or connection with the Virgin Mary. At least, this is what we imply, but as the film progresses, questions begin to percolate in our minds regarding what is real and what is all in Sara’s mind.
I cannot give cinematographer Roman Zenz enough complimentary credit for bringing Masud’s vision to life, with so many creatively appealing shots and and for inventing such a cool world within which Sara shines, even if her story is as much tragic as it is heroic. AFFLICTION is not your typical superhero tale, by any stretch, but I did find stylistic hints of Frank Miller and vigilantism of The Punisher lying deep within the subconscious underbelly of the film. There’s also a darkly comical subtext to the film, which I felt especially apparent when Sara encounters the hooker, who then calls her pimp named Freckles (John Charles Meyer) which was a fun little treat to lighten the heavier load of a film that’s primarily a deeper, dramatic work. Freckles’ day does not end well.
Abigail Mittel Culwell does a fabulous job portraying Sara, convincingly shifting from an innocent, scared girl into a dangerously vengeful predator, preying on the slimy undesirables around her, but also shifts effortlessly into the shoes of a remorseful sinner at odds with the cost of using her abilities. Abigail is illuminated on screen, due in part to the film being shot on Super 16mm, as opposed to digital, which I have to admit still gains favor in my heart, despite my support for the digital progression of the cinematic arts.
AFFLICTION premiered at the L.A. Shorts Film Festival on July 28th, 2011. The film was then featured in the Vegas Independent Film Festival (where it won the Silver Bulb and Best Actress awards) on November 16th and most recently in the Durango Independent Film Festival on March 4th, 2012.
Find more information about AFFLICTION at ThousandBurningSuns.com