Harpocrates (or, how to run away quietly) (2023) Movie Review

Directors: Georgie Bailey, Hal Darling
Writers: Georgie Bailey, Hal Darling
Star: Georgie Bailey

There is a certain indelible quality that makes the works of Hal Darling and Georgie Bailey so captivating. To call their work avant-garde is almost to dismiss it as merely ambitious, and while I do agree the ambitious qualities of their film work tend to carry a poetic weight, I like to also highlight that these are two aspiring creators that have a specific eye for experimental filmmaking in a way that surpasses mere avant-garde qualities. With The Process Trilogy, the Chewboy Productions team found a niche in creating disorienting visual spectacles in isolated environments. Their follow-up, The Zizz, founded a more poetically nuanced narrative to complement that sublime backdrop. And here with Harpocrates (Or, How to Run Away Quietly), this bare-bones team has struck a profound chord in the balance between the psychologically disoriented and the symbolically audacious.

This now is the third short film I have reviewed for the Chewboy Productions team, and I think it’s best to consider myself less a critic of their work and more of an interpreter. Criticism is as much the translator between audience and creative as it is the analysis of a creative’s work, so let me take a moment to first offer my translation of Harpocrates in an effort to find a better analytical framework from which to judge.

Harpocrates seems to be an apt title for the film as the name comes from the mythological god of silence and secrets. The film’s subtitle shows the deft penmanship of Bailey and Darling that crafts a narrative that subverts the fantastical and leans into the quasi-paranormal. “I know it might feel quite loud…but it’s loud for all of us.” The film’s opening lines shared with us through a voice recording hold tightly to the heart of the message at the film’s center. “So, wherever you are, wherever you’ve gone, just stop.” Harpocrates is depicted in mythology as a child often running away or being incidentally lost. Bailey and Darling often focus their films on inner turmoil at the root of a character, manifesting psychological torment into a visceral experience. The film’s protagonist walks with a concentrated purpose to a seemingly abandoned house. The audience is left to question whether this is where he has fled to, or if this is the place he is running from.

With myth, the translation often has two sides. We can choose to analyze it in a literal sense or a metaphorical application that bares in mind the context of the world we know. Bailey and Darling seemingly conquer both as the protagonist of our story brave a room that swirls with his inner turmoil. The sound design of the short aptly crafts notable noise—for lack of a better term—that intentionally breaks the stoic silence, the music thrusts forth like a jump scare to distort the foundation of reality with its notes just slightly cluing us to an unsettling undercurrent. In many ways, this is a film about a quest for silence. The subtitle, How to Run Away Quietly, offers us a glimpse at the protagonist’s goal. In a sense, it is a literal fleeing of the past, the sounds that imply the torturous trauma that crafted this isolated hellscape. And in a metaphorical sense, we watch as our protagonist must anguish in an isolated room to try to quiet his mind and find a sense of peace.

As with all Chewboy Productions films, this short can take on many meanings. And it is within this flexible analysis that Bailey and Jordan are so easily able to craft their mind-bending narratives. In a sense, the film’s greatest strengths can also be attributed to its greatest weaknesses. The unreality of it all can, at times, feel like a narrative crutch. For example, a jump cut of our protagonist sleeping with blinds closed to then abruptly cut to him awakening with blinds open can be passed as an example of the flexible reality, whereas it does feel immersion breaking solely because there is not enough evidence to truly branch the audience beyond the confines of reality in such a way. Yet, the cut is jarring. It captures the mood of the piece with pinpoint accuracy, therefore it is warranted even if it is a crutch.

Harpocrates is a psychological thriller that is blistering with a deep underscoring of sadness. Whether it is an analogy depicting the inner turmoil of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, or another calamity, it is certain to provoke a swell of unsettling emotional thought. And that is more than one can say for a large majority of other psychological shorts. Therefore, I remain ever optimistic that this creative team will showcase thought-provoking films for many years to come. And I will be ready to interpret them with glee. 8.5/10

Harpocrates (Or, How to Run Away Quietly) will release for the general public on March 31st 2023. I do hope you give it a watch.

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