Genre: Short, Drama, Horror.
Starring: Jakob Lewis Barnes, Hannah Thomas, Marin Gratton.
Year Of Release: 2017
Runtime: 8 Minutes
Director: Nick Deal
Writer(s): Naim David, Jakob Lewis Barnes & Nick Deal
Synopsis: “As Samuel once again struggles with his inability to sleep, his grasp on reality is challenged when the events of a single night lead him to question his own morality” IMDB
“Conscientia” is the latest short film from Jumpcut Productions after the brilliance of “Layla” and my personal favourite “Harlequin” I was more than excited when asked to review “Conscientia” ahead of its release. Most of the time there is something dark about their projects, and this time isn’t any different the short is about a man and his struggle t0 get a decent sleep causing him to question what is and isn’t real.
The original story comes from Naim David which has now been adapted by Jakob Barnes and Nick Deal, who do an incredible job of bringing it to life. Samuel (Jakob Barnes) is struggling something fierce to sleep which is slowly causing him to lose his mind which comes to a rather horrific end one night (you’ll have to find in the short), the story takes place during said fateful night. Nick Deal is in the director’s chair this time around, he has previously produced and acted in Jumpcuts’ previous shorts so it’s nice to see him in another role. He manages to wonderfully pull you into the story, the use of such a confined space in a way that makes it feel like you’re in the flat with them, there is definitely an eerie feeling of claustrophobia about the whole story. With the limitations of time and budget, director Nick Deal excels at making “Conscientia” feel like a much more professional film, not that previous shorts didn’t feel professional, I just feel that as a whole the production team are really gelling together brilliantly and Deal is helming them wonderfully. The use of black and white and colour to tell essentially two different sides of the same story was a great touch, not that it is hard to see the difference, however, the use of colour adds a great artistic flair to the film.
This was my first time seeing Barnes in front of the camera after seeing his writing and directing in previous shorts, his choice to take on a complex character like Samuel is commendable. Even more so considering he nails the role especially with every rewatch, you get more insight into the character and the struggles he is going through. Along with Barnes he is joined on screen by Hannah Thomas who plays Lauren, we don’t get to delve too much into her character, but her time on screen was enjoyable enough, she may seem like a bit of a throw away character, but that isn’t a bad thing in the grand scheme of the story. No offense to Hannah, but the character is merely a plot point in a way, but Hannah is able to deliver an entertaining performance that is a wonderfully cheery contract to the darkness brought by Barnes. Along with the two characters we see, we also hear another “The Demon” (because that’s not a scaryass name at all!) voiced by Martin Gratton, sadly there is something that falls a little flat with this character for me, the voice work from Gratton was great, the post-production of the voice is just a little unharmonious with the rest of the production. I believe if there were some tweaks to the actual voice, it would elevate the film to another level, while the voice isn’t a dealbreaker, it is, however, a little distracting, sadly, because you can tell what they were going for just the final product didn’t hit it. To give some props to Gratton (sounds a little like I was shitting on him, was not my intention) that he wholeheartedly deserves is his work on the score, the score is chilling and uneasy which adds a lot to the overall vibe.
In a way I was reminded of Marjane Satrapi’s “The Voices” starring Ryan Reynolds when watching the film, they explore similar themes and approach somethings in similar ways. That being said “Conscientia” is a much more real approach to hearing voices opposed to the comedic relief seen in “The Voices”. Making the voice in Samuels head in the same way a person hearing voices would experience the phenomenon, that is one thing I respect immensely about the Jumpcut shorts, there is usage of mental illness throughout their work but they do it in such a respectful manner and without compromising on the entertainment value they can use including such illnesses. They are in no way profiteering on such things, but the inclusion really helps cement their stories in the real world in a relatable way.
“Conscientia” has great production value capped off with two brilliant performances from Barnes and Thomas. The story manages to draw you in and make you feel uncomfortable which is impressive given the short runtime, even more so if you’re a claustrophobia sufferer, the use of smaller setting really makes the audience feel like they’re in the cramped bathroom with Samuel. The short is further proof that Jumpcut Productions have their production completely on point from the behind the scenes creativity and production value to the onscreen brilliance we see from the casts they use. The more I see from this team, the more excited I get whenever they announce anything new even their upcoming comic-book universe has my full attention, keep your eyes peeled for more creative endeavors from this talented crew.