Before a Painting Inventively Extrapolates Narrative: Film Review
Writer and Director, Nathan Tosoni dares to explore the possible narrative within three paintings from different time periods: Caravaggio’s “Judith Beheading Holofernes” from the 16th century, René Magritte’s “The Lovers” from 1928, and Edward Hopper’s “Morning Sun” from 1952.
Through three short films each titled after the painting they represent, Tosoni transports us to a 16th century time period piece, an arthouse film, and a modern drama. All paintings show the moments leading up to the masterpieces currently on display in world renowned art museums.
Though the films are disparate in style, they are linked through the theme of love. Holofernes has a fanatical connection with his sovereign sword, pledging that no one else shall touch it. The “Lovers” in the Magritte-inspired film haven’t seen each other for a while, and are reuniting for the first time like different people with opposing opinions. In “Morning Sun,” one woman at a birthday party hatches a plan to discover whether or not her boyfriend is cheating.
Tosoni pays tribute to a legacy of beloved artwork while managing to create strong standalone films. What is creativity if not learning from the greats who came before and adding something extra?
Tosoni’s ability to recreate the paintings in another medium at the end of each short is impressive. The grip and electric team had strong attention to detail to match the lighting and composition of each painting. The second film, “Lovers” echoes a new wave style with bold red and blue lighting that highlights the mood of the male and female monologues featured. Each monologue also breaks the fourth wall in a titillating manner. “Judith Beheading Holofernes” commits to a deeply contrasted look to echo the dark, dramatic tone of its painting.
Tosoni honors each masterpiece not only aesthetically but also through the use of character and the edit. Each character in the painting is brought to life with a clear perspective - a challenge for pieces that are so short. Still, Tosoni creates immediate empathy for the characters’ situations. The heightened drama of “Judith Beheading Holofernes,” the pessimism in the performance of “Lovers,” the attention to every sad glance in “Morning Sun” fit each piece accordingly.
Each piece builds to the strongest of the three. The finale “Morning Sun,” takes us through a relatable night with a painful twist that has the audience writhe with anticipation. The melancholy feeling you get from “Morning Sun” has a new poignancy with the added narrative context that Tosoni and his team offers.
The concept of recreating paintings in a way that feels relevant to today feels like it should be its own special genre category. Its inventiveness could leave audiences wishing there was a short film accompaniment to all their favorite paintings much like bookworms get to enjoy their favorite novels through film or television.