Midlands Review - Standing at Dawn
By midlandsmovies, Apr 16 2018 06:26PM
Standing at Dawn
Directed by Marc Hamill
“A short film exploring the tolerance of youth. Set in the Ukraine during World War II”.
From taking on toxic zombies in The Wrong Floor, Leicester filmmaker Marc Hamill hasn’t balked from tackling another genre in this new short film set during the Second World War.
For low budget filmmakers, attempting to work in genre films can be a tough task given the production costs involved but Marc and his cast and crew have gone beyond the call of duty in Standing at Dawn.
The film introduces us to a young girl in her bedroom and from the outset a boom box, She-Ra poster and a Look-In annual gives away the time as the 1980s.
We also get a well-positioned Jack-in-the-box – an ominous hint of what is to come – whilst a toy DeLorean from Back to the Future connotes how the audience will be criss-crossing time lines back and forth.
The child (Leia Hamill) subsequently gets a story read to her by her mum’s friend Bapcha (Mo Shapiro) after we see she’s been learning about World War 2 at school. The film then flashbacks to the war in Kiev itself as we see soldiers in the heat of battle in a forest.
Any budget the filmmakers had can be immediately seen on the screen and I was impressed with the production value with era-specific tanks, equipment and uniforms utilised to great effect. The sound was well done too with gunshots and dropping bombs taking you (from what must have been filmed in the Midlands) to the noisy battlefields of Eastern Europe.
As the story is recounted with witness an injured solider (Shane Buckley as Pasha) being helped by a young girl Karina (also Leia Hamill) to an outpost to tend to his wounds. But soon after, a similarly forlorn Nazi is also ushered into the base as the two stand-off.
Here though we unfortunately encounter one of the film’s flaws as the audience are given little chance to interpret or take stock of situations. Whether it’s the on-the-nose script or slightly awkward delivery, interactions such as “What are you doing? He’s a German” and “he’s a wounded injured solider, just like you” simply tell the viewer what they need to know. Earlier we get the line “We can all learn from the past” – again, very obvious dialogue for a film that could really use some subtlety and space.
I was also confused with the choice of language being used. Some actors use accents whilst others do not and there are also lines of dialogue in the native tongue during the same scene. I would have preferred if the film had stuck with one or the other. The fact the actual script brings attention to the ability to speak different languages further added to the issue.
Everyone looked the part but the story set-pieces would have benefitted from increased tension – for example during interrogation-style scenes - and the fact that concealment and taking cover seemed thematically important to the piece.
A well-intentioned film, Standing At Dawn works best when the dialogue is at a minimum though and allows the great photography and costumes to shine. Actor David Hardware looks the business as a senior Nazi officer and some well-constructed lighting and sound effects – from rainstorms in the present, to gunshots and explosions in the past – show a competence rarely seen at the zero-budget level.
By the conclusion, Standing at Dawn does have a few flaws but its strong message of remembering and learning from the past is pushed to the forefront using some wonderful images, a well edited flashback structure and a neat twist at its finale.
Midlands Movies Mike