"A woman contemplates a painting at a museum."
Stendhal is a short film by Italian artist Bianca Mansani about a woman who interacts with characters from paintings at a museum. It was created during her studies at French school La Poudrière.
Staged in a museum, the film features one main character, a secondary one (the museum guard) and a number of supporting characters, many of them supernatural. A conflict with the environment is present (could be interpreted as an internal one) as well as a strong focus on art and on playing with subjectivity in narration.
The film is inspired by the Stendhal syndrome, a clinical condition caused by being exposed to works of art of particular beauty that produces heart palpitations, shortness of breath, confusion and even hallucinations. The syndrome is named after French writer Stendhal, who described in one of his books his personal experience with the affliction when visiting Florence.
Staging plays a key role, the story takes place in a museum and many of the characters originate from paintings hanging on the walls. At some point these supernatural characters metamorphose into oil paints, and the main character starts drowning in them before being rescued by the guard.
Stendhal employs a stylized aesthetic with saturated colors. Particular effort has been dedicated to environment and character design. An emphasis on lighting is worth noting too, both for describing passage of time as well as for portraying the supernatural quality of the characters from the paintings.
Visual rhythm is high and handled mostly through editing and motion within the frame. One camera move is used, a circle shot, when the woman character starts dancing with the other characters. Sound design plays a significant role in describing the museum space and the supernatural attributes of the characters. The choice of music helps relocate the action to the time the paintings belong to.
What makes Stendhal work so well? Highly creative script, plenty of surprises, non-realistic staging, playful narrative ambiguity that leaves viewers thinking and a subject focused on art with a fresh approach that will appeal to a wide audience.