Muil (meaning “maw”) is a Flemish psychological horror film about a young man who develops an unusual fantasy, and feels thoroughly alone and misunderstood about it. The film is less than twenty minutes long and was written and directed by Jasper Vrancken.
Muil came to my attention by sheer chance, a fluke of Twitter; I wish I knew how, because I want more discoveries like this. It is a sublime piece of work, a showcase in the use of a character-driven, sparse plot, sharp cinematography and above all, sound.
The central character is Richard (Matthieu Sys), who has a fascination for mouths, especially those of animals. It becomes obsessive and erotic, and he does what he can to obtain satisfaction and understanding. He meets with Max (Pascal Maetens) who shares Richard’s interests and indeed already has the wherewithal to act on it, but it’s a little too real. He turns to a prostitute (Myrthe Kramer); but although willing and playful, she does not understand. Richard has no choice but to confront his desire for real.
Jasper Vrancken is a lecturer at LUCA School of Arts, Belgium, as well as a filmmaker; and this short film came out of his PhD studies into defamiliarization, amongst other things. The simple concept of an animal mouth film in Muil is made to be both shocking and erotic, and I have no doubt the film was a sound demonstration for that study. And to me – a lover of film who has never studied it – it is remarkable: it is body horror, with no violence; erotic, with no sex; tense, with minimal action.
The acting is near perfect, on the part of Sys and indeed all the cast. Combined with the intimate direction and writing, which lets us right inside Richard’s mind, Sys’s acting really shows us what the anguish and loneliness of his desire must feel like. The beautiful cinematography mirrors his thoughts and feelings, too; central perspective apparently taking him deeper when he is acting boldly, and close shots when he is focused.
The icing on this delicious cake is the sound; that is the soundtrack and sound design as a whole. Yves De Mey was responsible for the sound design, and Kreng the music; I’m looking for more by them already. Much of Muil‘s budget was covered by public arts grants, but additional crowd-funding was raised for the sound and music, to “lift the project to an even higher level.” And it paid off.
I’m not going to tell you how Richard’s journey concludes; I would urge you to watch it for yourself if you get the chance. Muil is a radical short film, with blood, nudity, passion; and it’s therefore not for everyone. But it is an excellent example of the art and craft of cinema, and how quality is not reserved just for full-length feature films.