Film Review: In the Mirror – Raindance Film Festival 2021

Director: Laila Pakalnina

White as snow is a rather strange story to begin with, a princess is kidnapped by her stepmother’s henchman and thrown into the woods where she easily becomes the housekeeper/maid to seven very short men. If that wasn’t surreal enough, Latvian director Laila Pakalnina’s film In the mirorreceiving its UK premiere at the Raindance Festal, sets the whole story in a gym world and captures it all from the perspective of a phone camera.

Pakalnina’s film is all about narcissism, something each character displays by preening and staring at the camera, ripping focus from others as often as they can while seemingly holding the camera themselves. This often absurd film is White as snow for the selfie generation, but while Pakalnina makes it seem like we’re seeing life through a lens, the crisp black and white visuals are rich and layered, giving In the miror extra shine that only enhances the overall effect.

The story is people with dancers and bodybuilders who add a particular aesthetic to the visuals, and, with limited dialogue, each shot feels carefully constructed as Pakalnina creates perspectives with different things to observe in the foreground, in the middle and at the back of the frame. Over time, the viewer adapts to this way of filming both close-ups and wide shots, emphasizing the notion of surface-obsessed, social media-centric Instagrammers who are consciously visible and cultivate their image at all times.

And all that style is really entertaining to a point, but at 80 minutes it starts to get a bit boring with no characters to really empathize with and a story that gets more and more indulgent in its surrealism as Pakalnina explores until ‘where she can push the storyline. There are burpee-obsessed gym bunnies in the kingdom, lingering shots seen over the viewer’s shoulder, a group of men training in the forest, lost sailors, and a manager. of gallery, which are all imaginative but a bit empty.

Ultimately, Pakalnina has little commentary to offer on the behaviors exhibited throughout the story, and in a hasty happy ending that matches the original story, her characters’ vacuity is, in fact, rewarded instead. that judged or diminished, while the wicked stepmother is duly punished, everyone else continues to be as phone-obsessed and selfish as they’ve ever been.

White as snow has been repurposed for the screen many times, but never quite like it, and it’s very important to see a film willing to experiment with form and narrative style to create a particular effect. In the miror will likely be an acquired taste and it certainly overstays its welcome, but Raindance audiences won’t see anything else quite like it.

In the Mirror is screened at the Raindance Festival on October 29.