Before this year’s SXSW was cancelled, the festival had many interesting short films set to screen. From animated films to documentaries, there was a wide variety of genres that would appeal to everybody. Figurant is a co production from France and the Czech Republic. The thrilling short uses great production and a strong performance to enhance its somewhat predictable plot.
Figurant takes place in an unnamed country. A nameless middle aged man is herded into a warehouse with a group of others. Each are provided a uniform and rifles. No one seems to know exactly what is going on, but each is clearly at the location by choice. As the preparations become stranger, the man begins to wonder if what he has been promised is worth what he is about to do.
Denis Lavant is magnificent in the main role. Though Figurant boasts a relatively large cast, none are given as much import as Lavant. The irony is seemingly every one is given a line except Lavant. His emotions are conveyed entirely through looks and mannerisms. It is an amazing performance as the audience will immediately feel for the man. Why has he chosen to come here? He is obviously confused and frightened. It is impossible to not pity and fear for the character. Lavant is exceptional in what amounts to a one man show.
Director Jan Vejnar also does a tremendous job. There is some great camerawork in the film. This all culminates in a point of view finale that will impress all that see it. The methodical sound brings tension to an already mysterious story. When the first imposing strings of music kick in, it is hard not too notice. What makes it work so well is how the music is never overpowering and just adds to the atmosphere.
The plot itself may be formulaic to some. This is not a story that is not as much about shocking its audience. There is a much deeper theme going on here. The ending will immediately make its audience wonder what has just transpired. When the definition of ‘igurant flashes across the screen, anyone watching will realize they just saw something that is more layered than it initially seemed.