Sanford's short thriller is a punchy exploration of life and death, taught with suspense.
Dylan Sanford’s latest short film, An Entanglement, is a tense exploration of the human psyche. Starring Shiri Appleby (of UnREAL) and Gary Wolf (The Nice Guys) as the married couple whose relationship has turned sour – Sanford has created a mysterious, stylish piece that raises as many questions as it answers. Currently running the festival circuits, the short has already won the Silver Award at the 2016 L.A. Neo Noir Novel, Film, and Script Festival and the Best Editing award from 2016 Melbourne Indie Film Festival; amongst a host of other nominations.
The plot follows Violet Novak, who is approached by a mysterious stranger (Sean Bell) as she sits in a diner. Though confused, Violet engages in conversation with him; only to find that her husband has paid for her murder. The enigmatic hitman is straightforward, charismatic, and carries an air of professionalism which provides a sinister undertone to their ensuing conversation. He has a proposition for her: pay double (and a dollar), and she can reverse the deal.
What works so well within the 15 minute piece is the lack of exposition. We are thrown into the situations with no prior knowledge of any of these characters – only able to piece together their lives through snippets of conversation. We don’t know why Violet’s husband wants her dead. We don’t know where this stranger came from. And we don’t know if any of what he is saying is the truth. The blind trust we have to place in these characters reflects Violet’s situation on screen; and we are left picking out information gleaned from snippets of conversation. Sanford demands your attention from the outset by removing any sense of predictability for the average couple; it’s an original and engaging concept. The only issue is that some believability is lost through the 15 minute run time, as there are some choices that threaten to bring you out of the moment. This is more of a pacing issue as there isn’t much time to linger on the emotion behind each dramatic decision. In saying this, it’s a revision that would suit a feature length film rather than toying with the mechanics as a short; and the performances live up to the parts otherwise – particular kudos going to Sean Bell. With dialogue weighted heavily over action, the film is a success in ramping up tension, as every word matters.
An unusually brilliant part of the film was found in the ending credits also, which are designed as animated tendrils connecting and dispersing letters across the screen. They complimented the mysterious thriller well, highlighting the chance encounters that can change everything, and that nothing stays the same – much like Violet’s broken down relationship and Rick’s employment of The Man. Though its not something that would normally be commented on, they are particularly mesmerising.
The editing is definitely award worthy – the soundtrack fits seamlessly and authentically with the film, and the cinematography is a joy to watch. The choice for 4k filming also gives a rich, high-definition rendering to the thriller that’s beautiful to see. Overall, the film achieves something that’s difficult to do in modern cinema – retains originality. Though confusing at times, Sanford has created something that leaves an impression, and is sure to rack up a few more awards over the coming festivals it has been shortlisted for.