Inspired by the soundtrack of Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter, British filmmaker Charlie Manton produced his own version of the American South with his award-winning short film, Beneath Water. At only 20 years of age, the co-founder of Duelling Productions conveys an astute understanding of cinematic mise-en-scène and features two adept performers that lend a remarkable amount of depth to the entire production.
Filmed in Surrey, the opening exterior shot has 16-year-old Daisy (Louisa Connolly-Burnham) grasping a dreamcatcher and peering over a dreary landscape. It’s the one year anniversary of a monumental event, and as she drifts away in thought, a fleeting image reawakens her to reality. Upon entering her log cabin home, she finds her mother Sue (Miranda Wilson) in a drunken slumber, and director Manton’s subtle visuals and sharp dialogue allow the viewer to connect the dots of his Poe-like visual poem. With a claustrophobic interior and quick cuts, a duel of conflicting ideals is set in motion, and the physical movements of both women speak volumes about their struggling characters. As Sue struggles to understand even her physical environment (she stabs a can with a knife rather than using an opener), it becomes evident that mother and daughter have become detached from a more happier time.
Ultimately, Beneath Water investigates the psychological dreamscapes that one builds after a traumatic event. Daisy has surrounded her own bedroom with dreamcatchers, however there’s visual reminders that she can’t let go of the past she’s trying to recapture. Her deeply unstable mother shows interest in the dreamcatchers as well, but Daisy reminds her of a harsh truth. In the end, the sorrowful environment provides consistent reminders of a haunting event, and as both women are barely floating above the proverbial waters, they’re still trapped beneath of bed of darkness looking up for answers.
Charlie Manton (The Imitation Game) shows incredible promise as a filmmaker with Beneath Water, as the visual techniques and character staging project someone in command of their own personal style.
Q.V. Hough (@qvhough) is a freelance writer and founder of Vague Visages. He lived in Hollywood, California from 2006 to 2012 and has bachelor degrees in Communication-Mass Media and History. He now resides in Fargo, North Dakota.