Film Noir was a short lived popular film style from the classic age of Hollywood. There has been many films since that have captured the essence of the genre, but it never caught on like it possibly should have. It’s also a genre that can be mishandled. In the new film by Dustin Kahia, Call of the Void, the mark of the noir is hit with all the right elements.
Using the world of the 40s as a backdrop, Steve is in desperation after the breakup with his dame Veronica. He battles between the desire to win her back and the blackness of loneliness. He seeks counsel from his therapist and his sponsor. As the struggle becomes harder and harder to handle, Steve melts into the gloomy world of his surroundings.
Visually, this film captures everything that it means to be a noir film. The shot composition is beautiful, and the use of black and white and its play with the shadows brings the audience into the genre with ease. From the opening of the film, with dialogue over a black screen, you are introduced to a world where visuals may not be exactly what you see, preparing you for a story that will be more than it seems.
The tension bubbling just under the surface of the story is presented with grace by the lead actor, Mojean Aria. He captivates the audience throughout the whole film, even if it’s him playing out a conversation in his head or saying no words at all. This talent is fully witnessed when he interacts with Veronica (Ashley Clements) and her current boyfriend Tommy (JT Alexander). It’s hard to take your eyes off of this love triangle as their frustration and passion grow.
In typical noir fashion, the ending is unexpected and unpredictable. The audience is jolted in the revelation at what life is beneath the surface, questioning what was previously seen. With reexamining the journey through this film, the story finds depth. The reveal is not a cliche, instead it’s a welcomed explanation.
Even with the beautiful homage elements to a genre film, there were moments where the film fell into the realm of over-excursion. There were moments in the script that the dialogue felt too forced. There are colloquially appropriate phrases that needed to be present, and are, but at times they seemed placed there for the sake of the time period present. This is the same for the musical accompaniment. There are times when it’s hardly noticeable, serving its purpose of harmonization with the story with brilliance, while at other times over powers the simplicity of the struggle.
For me, what halts the enjoyment of the film is in the moments where there is pacing issues. The story is intriguing and engaging, but in mimicking the slow build of the noir, moments of vacancy appear. The story is not over complicated, which is a good thing. However, in the attempt to master the suspense of the era, some scenes linger too long on screen. It is an interesting homage to the Noir, but in our short attention span world, these elements may be lost on some viewers.
That’s not to say that the film isn’t interesting to watch. The actors intensity and the visual splendor hold the attention of the audience throughout the film. The investment of the story lasts well after the ending. Call of the Void is an intense film worth watching.
Call of the Void plays the Newport Beach International Film Festival on Sunday April 24th at 2:30pm.
Written by Lisa Mejia