Review: The Affected (2020)

Uppsala Short Film Festival
International Competition

courtesy of Uppsala Short Film Festival

A mess seems more messier in a confined space like an airplane. That is the reason for the strict procedures and regulations to be in place regarding the behaviour of the passengers and the crew, but also one of the reasons some people consider flying a hassle. A chaos on the plane putting certain processes and moral dilemmas in motion is the topic of Rikke Gregersen’s short film The Affected.

The film premiered at Norwegian Short Film Festival earlier this year, reaping the awards ever since including Best Film, Best Screenplay and an honourable mention for the cinematography at the afore mentioned festival, but also the Best Nordic Short at Nordisk Panorama. It is currently competing for the Grand Prix at Uppsala.

From the opening shot of a parked plane and the passengers entering it seen from the bird’s perspective, it seems like a regular life situation, but the choice of music, Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 101, suggests that some trouble is about to happen. The dramatic classical music usually signals it.

The chaos of entering the plane seems also regular at the beginning: babies are crying, passengers are in the rush or trying to make some kind of conversation. The pilots should check fuel level, but they are busy taking selfies, which might be the company’s policy. One of the flight attendant notices a woman protesting and refusing to take a seat for take-off, while filming with her cell phone camera. The matter of her protest is the destiny of a passenger from Afganistan who is being deported.

The plane cannot take off before she is seated, she keeps refusing to comply to the rules and a huge moral dilemma arises for each of the passengers and crew members. Is anyone willing to be an accomplice to an immoral act? Or the delay in the schedule is more of a trouble. The pilot’s intervention does not go as planned (well, at least not according to HIS plans) and the video of him pushing the woman goes viral, creating the shift in the chain of command, according to the company’s policy.

Gregersen manages to mix a couple of genres here, most notably the morality play and the dry Scandinavian comedy and to pack them in a nail-biter of a short film. In order to do so, he makes the most of the cramped space and the 13-minute time span. The characterization of the persons involved in the script Gregersen co-wrote with Trond Arntzen might seem a bit shallow, but it is actually unerring because people in stressful situations tend to focus on only one thing. The decision not to show the alleged deportee and the activist woman protesting until the very end is also a smart directorial decision. The DoP Torjus Thesen and the editor Espen Kjong Knutsen should also be commended for creating just the right amount of “order” in the chaotic surroundings, making it easy for the viewers to follow the plot with interest. The Affected is definitely a short to see, enjoy and think about.

Original title: De Berørte
Year: 2020
Runtime: 13’
Country: Norway
Languages: Norwegian, English
Directed by: Rikke Gregersen
Written by: Rikke Gregersen, Trond Arntzen
Cast: Anders T. Andersen, Alexander de Senger, Renate Reinsve, Marit Andreassen, Andrea Berntzen, Shakil Ahmad Shinwari
Cinematography by: Torjus Thesen
Editing by: Espen Skjong Knutsen
Sound design by: Odin Eggen Braeke
Production design by: Liselli Grunwald
Costume design by: Marie Eckhoff Owing
Make-up by: Rebecca Kilcline Abbott
Colourist: Adrian Dark
Assistant director: Ben Lucas
Produced by: Stine Blichfeldt
Production company: Them Girls