corridor | 2022 Toronto International Film Festival Review

corridor |  2022 Toronto International Film Festival Review

Making room: Mathias reveals the fleeting moments of a relationship in elegant debut

Runner Marian MathiasAmidst the unforgiving and barren landscape of a midwestern winter, delicate tendrils of human connection take hold. Mariana Mathias‘Elegiac feature film debut Hall. Within a modest and spartan frame, the filmmaker unfolds the story of two young people on the frontier of adulthood, whose unexpected encounter flashes like lightning on the horizon and fades like an old photograph whose memory lives on as long as history is not forgotten.

An image that favors atmosphere over narrative, the film is set sometime after World War II, against the bruised autumnal skies of the American Midwest. Living in a rural Missouri community, eighteen-year-old Haas (Hannah Schiller) takes care of the house and takes care of her single father, Alvin (Jonathan Eisley), a man whose bad reputation, untreated mental illness and shroud of mourning have made them social exiles. She discovers the true depth of the troubles he carried when, after Alvin’s unexpected death, she discovers that his debt was so great that their house is on the brink of foreclosure, while the real estate opportunity he was desperately trying to offer investors was. probably an invented hoax.

Both out of loyalty and obligation, Haas fulfills his father’s last wish, escorting his body to Illinois for burial. Trading one piece of barren field for another, Haas checks in at a modest inn after the weather changes and delays the burial for a few days. As she waits for her father’s grave to be prepared, she crosses paths with Will (Darren Houle) who, like Hass, is also just passing through and burdened by a painful past.

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Falling somewhere between a friendship and a budding relationship, Mathias traces their fragile bond through a series of tender, quiet incidents and conversations. From bike rides to idle walks through icy fields, the barriers each has placed on the world crumble as they both take solace in the relief of the rest of their lives, which are both complicated and uncertain. They even find a song to call their own, “I Saw The Light” by Hank Williams. Will explains that he enjoys listening to the song at times when he is “…going from sad to happy”. It’s the closest they come to articulating what they mean to each other.

While Mathias employs the 1.44:1 square format, cinematographer Jomo Fray makes it wonderfully spacious. Working with a deep regard for composition, the film’s images often appear pictorial, evoking the melancholy air of Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper’s work. Characters are often at the edges of the frame or shot in medium and wide shots, enveloping them with a vastness that is expansively beautiful and utterly lonely. Mathais further emphasizes Haas and Will’s isolation, keeping anything resembling civilization off-camera. The only hint of the outside world comes with the train ride from Haas to Illinois, but even so, with her destination so remote, there are few in the car with her.

Unwinding with a light runtime of 76 minutes, Mathias’ Hall makes the most of this brevity, keeping only its most essential elements in the frame. Every bit of minimal dialogue, every vibration of the score from the rising composer To One (Celine Sciamma regular contributor; and 2022 Daughter of Fury), every low-ceilinged tavern and every open expanse of farmland is invisibly tucked into a cumulative portrait of togetherness forged in the most unlikely of circumstances. What Haas and Will build together in such a short time seems miraculous, like picking up the chords of your favorite country song late at night on the FM dial, while a voice from a faraway place sings, “I saw the light, I saw the light / No There’s no more darkness, no more night / Now I’m so happy, no sadness in sight / Praise the Lord, I’ve seen the light.”

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Revised September 11 at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival – Discovery. 76 minutes.


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