Mute: a full-length short film in quality | 25YL

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‘Panties, panties, panties..’

So says Monette in Mute: he likes to tell a story. Maybe a little too much, because it’s not just any tale: it’s a confession.

Mute is a 23-minute film based on the short story by Stephen King, a story that spoke to director Kyle Dunbar. His intention wasn’t to mess with the original too much, “being a dedicated fan, I wanted to do one of his stories and do him justice with the right cast,” he says. And it did something that some other Stephen King adaptations neglect, it kept the fun feeling throughout.

Mute – [Horror Short Film] Trailer

Monette, a recently separated traveling bookseller, tells his dark story to both a priest and a hitchhiker, seeking absolution. Written for the screen and directed by Kyle Dunbar Based on the short story by Stephen King Produced by Rebecca Callender Executive Producer Andrew Bee Cinematography by Roman Lapshin Music by Nathaniel Reynolds-Welsh Sound Design by Geoff Devine “Mute” © (November 2008) Stephen King Used with permission.

This humor clashes with the subject, but it is completely true. King rocks you into the narrative, it feels like a small town tale, but it quickly becomes something more.

Monette is a traveling bookseller with a picture book marriage. He is often absent. But he has no reason to worry. Except that his wife suddenly tells him about an affair. Not a “it was a mistake” case. He was so installed at the motel that “they had set up the cleaning”, says Monette. And then comes the detail, the lingerie she bought him, the way she financed the lifestyle. He goes into detail. He is not embarrassed. But it’s OK. The person he is talking about is a picked up hitchhiker who happens to be deaf and dumb. Getting rid, that’s all. Job done, huh? Oh no, there’s more than that. One of those things is that he tells a priest about it. It is the confession.

This confessional aspect of history is important because Mute plays with the nature of the story. Tales change, depending on where they are told, how they are told, the fruitiness of the story. The most outrageous details can be extended perhaps for friends in a bar. For your parents’ friends at home, things may be different.

Credit: Mute

It is therefore a story to the holy man. But as Andrew Santella said in slate a few years ago, confession was rarer, perhaps because of the desire to go to confession outside the church. And there is another Mute 2011 film which is a shorter short and places confession in the church. The decision to move it into the cozy living room opens things up for more possibilities. He wrote: “…secular culture is increasingly awash with confessions, apologies and acts of contrition of all kinds. Parents recognize Jerry Springer’s pedophilia. The authors reveal their fetishes and infidelities in heartbreaking memoirs. And this short disrupts the continuum of confession. The priest is serious. But the confession does not take place in the church, Monette is at home.

How does he know him? Why does he get a special will? These are all delicious questions. He hasn’t made an appointment, it seems, as the priest notices that he’s getting visitors soon. So he just passed. And was accepted into the Father’s house. Unusual. They discuss whether confession in a parlor is within the “rules”. He is. But that makes things a little off, like the result isn’t quite right. Especially since Monette has to hurry because visitors are expected.

Does it water down the story? Or do more in the narrative? You decide. As Colleen Hoover said, “It’s not a confession if no one reads it.” It’s just an unshared secret.” Does he need the ritual? Mute have fun with these levels. What did Monette do? Why does he feel the need to confess? Is it a confession? Or is he just enjoying the act?

It’s mostly about Andrew Bee as Monette, telling his story. He pitches it perfectly. The thing goes from liking to outrage and Bee is really enjoying the storyline here. Dunbar adapted King’s story with the laid-back feel of home to left-behind storytelling. But he did something else: he left playfulness, the pleasure of words, humor in there. It adds warmth and lots to play with.

Bee, from whom we will know suicide squad, really having fun here without going overboard and not being able to pull it off. The three words that start this piece? He watches for everyone when he performs them as if he is trying to embarrass the priest. But there’s a quality of world-weariness that makes us feel it’s already told this story and a pride in itself that gives the story a place to move. His taste for tongue is so well done and so warm and naughty that we can almost feel guilty enjoying it with him.

The mute priest
Credit: Mute

This holy man is played by Christian Tribuzio with delicacy too. He has a restless piety that one could almost feel feigned. And somewhat capriciously, his slight annoyance at having to confess while expecting visitors is eclipsed only by the feel of his school teacher when he dispenses the Hail Marys and Our Fathers.

As a young priest, one has the feeling that he is a little inexperienced and that Monette chose him or was stimulated by his behavior. The main character of Mute? Alexander Stoupenkov doesn’t have much to do as a hitchhiker. But he manages to give the feeling, with his reactions to Monette’s attempts to communicate, that he is not entirely happy to receive it. Unable to speak or hear, he is not concerned with pleasing, but rather carries a hostility that is entirely appropriate for the later plot. Dunbar allows his actors to tell the story, to have time to work with their characters, to interpret. It takes strength; letting go of the reins of staging allows this story to breathe. As Bee said; “Monette has so much dialogue and the challenge for me was to let it go wherever it goes.”

A word about cinematographer Roman Lapshin, who manages to work with mainly 2 locations to produce a sense of threat in the car and a sense of safety in the living room. Dunbar uses the shadows in the vehicle and the out-of-frame hitchhiker to suggest uncomfortable possibilities while the openness of the house provides soft contrast. There is a touch of levity here, the story unfolds and yet is lightly accented. When the cuts from the car to the cleric occur, there is air around them, as if the priest was absorbed and wanted to say “and?…” but felt he needed to observe ritual subtleties . Making that direction seem simple might just be the hardest thing to do.

As with any Stephen King project, the big question is: is it horror? He is. I won’t reveal the outcome, but the implications will surely make you wonder. Like all good stories, we don’t have it on screen, this anxiety, this questioning, this uneasiness going on in the head. There is a sweetness here in the narrative and a sense of fun.

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