Tuesday, December 13, 2011

[Short] The Palace (2011)

Written, directed and produced by Anthony Maras, The Palace is a short film inspired by true events, set against the backdrop of Cyprus in 1974 with the Turkish invasion, and a family's desperate flight for survival, taking refuge in an abandoned Ottoman empire era palace. Taking its roots from a confession of an actor who had detailed on live television the atrocities committed as a young conscript soldier obeying orders, Maras' film captures the harrowing intensity and fear of everyone involved in armed conflict, both soldiers and unarmed civilians alike.

Beginning with a family of five including three children, one of whom is an infant in the arms of mom Stella (Daphne Alexander), the first few minutes of The Palace is spent dodging the pandemonium and chaos coming from an invading force with whizzing and ricocheting bullets all round, before finally finding refuge in the titular palace, which the production had used the House of Hadjigeorkakis Kornessios for its interiors. But for the Cypriots already hiding inside, they do not take comfort that Stella's wailing baby, which she is trying her desperate best to keep quiet, will give them all away.

Attention soon shifts from the civilians to the invasion troops, with three of them, Sergeant Karem Akalan (Kevork Malikyan) and his men Omer (Erol Afsin) and Mehmet (Tamer Arslan), with their initial awe at the ostentatious surroundings soon giving way to opportunities to plunder. Maras does it best here with tension building when the soldiers go from cupboard to cupboard, each time threatening to reveal the civilians who are hiding from them. The director deftly handles the claustrophobia and fear especially with women and children get into the picture, with Daphne Alexander shining in her role sans dialogue, personifying the fearful emotions any mother would have in protecting her children and keeping them safe from harm, with very little options made available save for the gaining of an unexpected ally.

But the highlight will be Erol Afsin's performance as the boy with that bit of humanity left in him, put in a dilemma of listening to his murderous superiors, or listening to his conscience in not wanting to harm innocent civilians, where we can see his internal struggles at trying to make sense out of a senseless situation that circumstances had thrust him into. With superb production values invested into this short film, Anthony Maras has crafted a powerful narrative that shows permanent scars and wounds that leave their mark each time humanity reveals its worst side.

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