Love can be troublesome, complex, and macabre, and Like a Heartbeat Drives You Mad offers extensive insight into this dark side of human intimacy. The series consists of ten short films shot from around the world, from Glasgow to Delhi, through which we witness an eclectic range of traumatic love experiences. Regardless of your race, religion, sexuality, or nationality you are guaranteed to relate to at least one of the stories on a profoundly personal basis. Here are some of the highlights:
Dir: Kaveh Mazaheri. Country: Iran. 20 minutes
Retouch portrays an Iranian housewife’s fight against daily oppression in a deeply disturbing and callous way. From the beginning she is dismissed and condescended to by her husband, who sees her as a commodity destined to do his bidding. In the morning, whilst doing barbell chest-presses in their bedroom, he accidently puts on too much weight and the bar drops onto his neck brutally choking him; he screams for her help but she simply walks into the bedroom and watches the life leave his body without any expression on her face. There was no indication of emotional stress or conflict whilst watching her husband die, she saw the opportunity to escape the domineering marriage and resolutely took it and then went to her job as usual (which consisted of altering the images of Western female celebrities in magazines so that their shoulders do not show). The wife serves as both an anti-hero, fighting against male patriarchy, and as a cold sociopath who refuses to help the father of her child as he dies in front of her. There is very little dialogue and no music during any of the scenes creating a deeply eerie and unnerving atmosphere. Middle-Eastern film is relatively uncharted waters for most people in the West, and thus this fascinating critique of Iranian society was undoubtedly one of most memorable and thought-provoking films from the series.
Dir: Madeline Sims-Fewer; Dusty Mancinelli. Country: Canada. 11 minutes
With unconvincing acting and a terrible script, Slap Happy was unquestionably the worst from the series. The film follows a mid-twenties professional couple who are at point in their relationship of no boundaries. The opening scene involved the girlfriend poking fun at her lover by continually referring to him as “gay” for being offended at something trivial, and by the end she slaps him in a fit of anger whilst they are having an argument. The girlfriend’s character is centred around the concept of gender-role reversal in modern relationships (see the abysmal Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck if you need an explanation), where a woman adopts traditionally male attributes. Generally, this role-reversal is associated with a feminist message and promotes the importance of strength and independence in women; however the female character in Slap Happy is portrayed as homophobic, obnoxious, and physically violent. The male actor had a very pale baby face which was boringly unresponsive throughout. One scene involves the girlfriend describing some very obscene fantasies to her lover during sex, but all this created was the feeling that the writer tried to throw in as many ‘shock-factor’ lines as possible. All-in-all one word perfectly sums up Slap Happy – Cringeworthy.
Dir: Daniel Wiesmen. Country: Israel. 10 minutes
Lice explores the psychological and emotional conflict that exists within a child during a messy parental breakup. The film is shot at late evening in an Israeli apartment and details a young girl undergoing the gruesomely uncomfortable procedure of being deloused by her frazzled mother whilst her (freshly-divorced) father invites her to come for ice-cream by shouting from the street. Intensely aggressive exchanges erupt between the mother and father and the young girl becomes caught in the middle of the crossfire. Her mother eventually gives her the ultimatum and lets her make the decision of whom to stay with, placing the girl in state of confusion, overwhelmed by two forces that love her and hate each other. The child’s acting is brilliant throughout; her deeply descriptive expressions profoundly illustrate how emotionally taxing parental conflict can be. The film was, however, a little bit too short and ends rather abruptly leaving the viewer wanting a bit more development of both characters and story.
Dir: Karishma Dube. Country: India-USA. 13 minutes
Coming to terms with your sexuality in modern day India, a country that has a space program but where homosexuality is still illegal, is illustrated as an intense and troubled struggle in Goddess. The protagonist Tara is an insubordinate young lesbian in Delhi, who – much to her strictly-Hindu mother’s dismay and confusion – frequently gets involved in physical conflicts with men on the street (after experiencing homophobic abuse) and refuses to dress in traditional Hindu clothes. Tara has an unquenchable passion for one of her family’s housemaids, Devi – a forbidden desire that is tortured, realistic, and is reminiscent of Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger’s affair in Brokeback Mountain. They eventually share a kiss at a family wedding, which Tara’s mother finds out about. She initially expresses discontent at her daughter’s sexuality, leading to an emotional argument; however the morning after this they have breakfast together as though nothing had happened, creating conflict of thought – has the mother chosen to forcibly ignore Tara’s sexuality or has she silently accepted her daughter for who she is?
British by the Grace of God
Dir: Sean Robert Dunn. Country: UK-USA-UAE. 16 minutes
In the Calton region of Glasgow, just minutes from the city centre, the average life expectancy is 54. This fact perfectly illustrates how difficult and bleak life can be in working-class Glasgow and British by the Grace of God deals with the idea of duplicity and removing yourself from the harsh realities of the city. This film focuses on a typical loyalist family in the heart of Glasgow and begins with the father (an Orangeman) preparing for a standard day of marching by putting on his sash, singing “God-Save the Queen”, and talking about immigrants in a derogatory way. On the surface he is the archetypical strong Protestant Glaswegian man; however his fetish involves dressing up like a baby whilst his wife feeds him milk from a bottle and cradles him in her arms, illustrating his profound vulnerabilities and obscure sexual comforts. His wife is initially portrayed as an all-serving stay at home mum who is totally loyal to her husband and son; however she displays deep-seeded deceitfulness as she coldly cheats on her husband on a cheap one-night stand on a stag do outside a pub. The victim of this dysfunctional domestic situation, and the only character who displays his true and honest feelings, is the couple’s son. Throughout the film he remains in his room blasting heavy-metal music, demonstrating his anger and his wish to remove himself from the reality of his home life; he ultimately commits suicide, ending the film on an extremely dark note.