Not About Words
Short films are their own challenge in the world of filmmaking. Too long and the audience will wonder why it’s not feature-length. Too short and the filmmakers have the limited resource of time to express the necessary emotion, character, or plot in the storytelling. For me, it’s always a bit harder to write a response to a short film as I tend to crave more.
For Notes (2021), the latest short film from prolific Swedish filmmaker Jimmy Olsson, the goal of the film becomes clear – starting at the intentionally awkward opening dialogue between its lead character and the woman showcasing an apartment. Speaking is not always about words and the communication that leads to human connection is fluid.
Simple, But Effective
Running at approximately 20 minutes, Notes (2021) has the aforementioned challenge in front of it – to express the emotional rise, fall, and redemption of an unnamed man in making a human connection. Oftentimes short films cannot be plot-heavy; instead of focusing on a series of events, they focus on a single character or emotion to define. Notes (2021) ably accomplishes this task through its simple storytelling, emotional core, and steady directorial hand.
Olsson, who serves as the director, writer, and producer on the film, guides Notes (2021) with the gracefulness of the piano playing that represents such a strong portion of the emotional weight in the second half of the film.
The nature of connection
The choices of communication in the film, the isolation that is felt through cell phones, a cramped apartment, and a forced move away from loved ones for a work opportunity, push through as the obstacles that the lead of the film, credited simply as ‘Man’, must face.
It’s a fairly common feeling in the modern world and one that Olsson inherently understands in the writing and visual choices made throughout. When Man hears the music from his neighbor, even his initial connection is through sticky notes on a wall.
Sticky note discussions are all too real and it’s fascinating to see it done in a way where the words written on the note are not as important as the note itself. When Man begins to play the piano in response to his neighbor, the connection feels as real as one would hope and the finale of the short resonates emotionally.
All the right notes
Notes (2021) is a simple film, focused on subtle visual queues, realistic and naturalistic performances, and impressively thoughtful sound design. Yet, its emotional foundation is what allows it to work, never allowing the film to drag despite its limited dialogue and character interactions. The film’s simplicity is where the heart lies.
It’s not always easy to respond to a short film, but when it’s a solid little drama like Notes (2021), it’s not responding to the film – it’s responding to the humanity in it.
Artwork & Editor: Richard Williams
Images courtesy of Jimmy Olsson
Writer, podcaster, cinema fiend, drive-in mutant, kung fu fanatic, horror hound, vulgar auteur, and sometimes human being. I’ve been writing about cinema for over ten years now, dedicating my time to all genre cinema. Co-creator of Blood Brother Film Reviews and co-host of the No Franchise Fatigue podcast.