Portraying a character with multiple personalities — or suffering from dissociative identity disorder, as it’s come to be known — in a story is a tricky business for creative professionals. If a film is too subtle, it may not register with a viewer at all. Conversely, if a film goes too far in the opposite direction, it could be perceived as simply bonkers. A man’s short film Mirror Mirrorwritten and directed by Harmeet Singh Grewal, draws inspiration from the school of storytelling too much is good.
Following a quick and cryptic phone call reminding him not to miss an important meeting, Anthony (David Brown-King) prepares to leave. He smoothes his eyebrows, adjusts the collar of his shirt and arranges his hair. He smiles to himself in what we assume is a mirror. Then Anthony hears a knock. Well, not a knock, really, but rather an ominous voice devilishly intoning the words “knock knock.” The voice belongs to an entity named Tony, and it appears to emanate from the hidden mirror that Anthony is facing. Once he removes the cloth, it becomes clear that Tony is a manifestation living inside Anthony as a separate, evil personality.
At the end of the film, a few title cards try to qualify Mirror Mirror as a serious examination of an extreme circumstance of dissociative identity disorder. Still, as noted, it’s impossible not to view the previous 10 minutes as much more than an elaborate exercise in landscape chewing. There’s no doubt that Brown-King is fully committed to the Anthony/Tony dual role. But playing a character with this disorder involves a lot more than facial stretching and vocal inflections.
“…he removes the cloth, it becomes clear that Tony is a manifestation living inside Anthony…”
The fact that Tony is presented as nothing more than a textbook and cartoonish evil personality, without providing any deeper context, requires the film’s lone actor to ponder for a minute the dichotomy of kind and placid Anthony. macabre and mad the next one. As a result, the film wants to be a riff on Jekyll and Hyde but only leaves room for the transient aspects of that story and character without providing any pathos.
Mirror Mirror is beautifully shot in lush black and white. Grewal and DP Israel Arias make excellent use of light and shadow, especially early on. For example, when Anthony is talking on the phone, half of his face is well lit, while the other half is in shadow. The lighting in this scene foreshadows the battle Anthony will soon be waging between the forces of good and evil inside his head. However, it takes more than beautiful cinematography and engaged acting to truly and deeply affect a viewer.
If Grewal wants to investigate the potential horrors of dissociative identity disorder, he might benefit from a little more time spent fleshing out the story to really uncover the root cause of Anthony’s affliction. But, in the end, the honorable intentions of Mirror Mirror are undermined because the film produces little more than meaningless stagings.