Graveyard Lullabies (Abhijeet Dey, 2019) – Review

It’s always nice to see a friend succeed. As many of you will likely already know, I found the majority of my so-called ‘film friends’ via Facebook and other socials. Abhijeet was one of many who I met in one specific group, maybe the one where I found the most people I got along with well. We mostly interacted through comments, and at one point, at around the same time, we were both working on our own short film projects and sharing them with one another whenever they were ready.

I was always pretty impressed with Abhijeet’s work. I loved the ambition of his projects despite the low budget, they never felt like small films because he had this way that he managed to always make the films feel sprawling. This is no different, and I don’t even give this support out of my admiration for Abhijeet as a person, but as a surprisingly consistent and talented writer/director who never fails to impress me.

Graveyard Lullabies is a film with a simple plot that leans on the execution a lot, but luckily, the execution is wonderful, so the risk pays off. The film is about a man reflecting on his past, with the film mixing together his current actions and his memories/fantasies of his past.

What interested me instantly was the use of colour and aspect ratio for added effect. The film opens with a claustrophobia inducing aspect ratio and gentle black and white, before turning to fullscreen and sepia, then bouncing between the two and occasionally adding in other surprises which I won’t spoil for those who wish to see it. I haven’t seen use of colour quite this playful or sporadic since maybe Coppola’s Tetro, a film I hold quite dear to my heart. It’s just wonderful.

As if the bizarre, ethereal use of colour wasn’t enough, there is also this borderline inexplicable use of still images straight out of La Jetée (Marker, 1962) with… what seems to be the twist of subtle Photoshop use. I can’t say for certain, however, some of the still images used just look slightly artificial, and it adds to the film this slight discomfort and an eerie feeling as if something is slightly wrong. When remembering that these sequences are supposedly of fantasies/memories too, it works as an upsetting remind that so often our memories can become artificial when compared to the reality that created them in the first place. I can’t really find the words for it, but it stirred me a lot more than I was expecting. The fading transition between still to still also got to me quite a bit.

The way that the short looks and sounds is also hugely impressive. The music choices are wonderful, with one song towards the end being a surprising treat that not only works wonders with the tone but also reflects the story in the lyricism. The cinematography, which as I said earlier somehow manages to fit a wide range of aspect ratios and colours without ever being distracting in a negative way, is also just gorgeous. The opening few shots are all stunning.

Something behind the pacing also interested me. I haven’t seen a film in a little while seem so relaxed about its narrative, in the way that the film follows the characters observantly and nothing feels forced or cinematic – it all just seems to flow. It’s beautiful. The playful form also helps to contribute to this guileless flow, it never meanders but it never rushes either.

Most importantly, though, it’s just wonderful to remember sometimes what can be accomplished with a low budget, a few friends and an idea. The quote is thrown around a lot, “all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun”, and this film only disproves it. All you need to make a movie is an idea and some passion. A camera can help, too.

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