|Raindance Film Review: Strings|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Friday, 28 September 2012 06:58|
Director: Rob Savage
"Do you think in German?" Jon (Malam) asks foreign exchange student Grace (Lembeck). With two weeks until school breaks up forever, they've started seeing each other. Not that they've told anyone. And so the couple meets in the bedroom, having awkward sex followed by awkward conversations. It's sweet. But awkward.
And that's what Rob Savage's Strings captures perfectly: the awkwardness of adolescence.
"You don't look German," adds Jon.
Along with our channel-crossing couple, Strings follows another pair of pained lovers: Scout (Wilder) and Chris (Ali). They have an equally uneasy relationship. Picking their way through a derelict building, they talk honestly, veering between affectionate flirting and weary sniping. "I love you but sometimes I really hate you," confesses Scout, staring into the distance.
It feels real, thanks to a freewheeling air of improvisation. A shoestring production made in his hometown for something like £3,000, director Savage keeps things relaxed, letting the cast interact naturally. It’s an approach that draws strong performances from all of his young actors, particularly Lembeck’s outsider. Sid Akbar Ali even throws in a nod to Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.
Chucking everything together with a raw and messy immediacy, Strings’ subtly gripping flow is only disrupted by quick, candid montages of things like people making their beds. It sets the mood well enough and the cinematography is excellent but the challenging part for audiences is the use of silence. It’s a bold decision to chop off the soundtrack altogether – and it works, for example, during a nightclub scene, heightening the visuals, but some other sequences feel a little less consistent.
Sequences left un-translated in German are similarly frustrating but intentionally so; for someone who only turned 18 mid-shoot, Savage has a strong grasp of what can be done with form as well as content. When the two successfully align, Strings is excellent, taking us far closer to life's growing pains than big budget teen films. Like its carefully-drawn teenage characters, this is realistic, honest, and slightly awkward.
Packed with great actors and sincere emotions, Strings is an impressive debut by a young filmmaker. I can’t wait to see what he does with his next £3,000.