SCARS Short Film Review (Toronto International Film Festival 2020)

There’s something about short films that truly make the film festival experience for me. I find myself pulled to them in the same way that I am pulled to short stories. Raymond Carver really said it best:

“It’s possible, in a poem or short story, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things—a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring—with immense, even startling power.”

SCARS, an 11-minute short film by Montreal filmmaker Alex Anna, grabs hold of this very power that Carver spoke about using only the filmmakers body and this deep and profound sense of vulnerability. SCARS creates a dialogue about mental health, psychiatry, and self harm by tracing lines through the seemingly innumerable scars that wind their way over Alex Anna’s body as she speaks with an emotional tenacity. Though she is speaking of what many would see as an uncomfortable or even taboo subject, there is a frankness to her speech that is unflinching and holds the gaze of the viewer. Self harm can come in many forms, and the physical act of cutting can often leave a latticework of scars on the bodies of those who self harm, and these scars can be seen to be marks of pride for some, marks of stigma for others, and reminders of growth for even more others. There is a testament to self harm scars, when we understand that each scar can represent survival, a kind of “I’m still here”. Alex Anna touches on this in the short when she compares her scars to tattoos.

Using only her body against a white background, with a microscope set against her skin, animations swirl across her body, tracing a kind of painful topography and plotting the lines of who Alex was and charting a course for who she is now. The vulnerability of showing off these scars is met with an even more singular vulnerability of exposing one’s nude body, and Alex uses her own body so beautifully and muses on how she wishes her friends would ask her about her scars, because, at the end of the day she wants to talk about them, and in a way I think SCARS started a very painful but necessary conversation. It seems somewhat odd to say as well, but not only is the story Alex is telling so beautiful, but she is so truly beautiful. I found myself completely mesmerized watching SCARS and I truly want to see what more she has to say and look so very forward to her future work.

If you’re in Canada and you feel like you’re needing help to deal with mental health, suicidal ideation, etc, please call or text:

SMS: 45645

DIAG RATING 6/6:  A beautifully realized short film about mental health

More Toronto International Film Festival coverage can be found below:
Ten Films You Must See At Toronto International Film Festival 2020
Zaida Bergroth’s TOVE


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