P:O.V. No.7 - Three Recent Short Fiction Films, COME

Wordless eloquence in COME

Richard Raskin

In many films now being made, there is very little cinema: they are mostly what I call "photographs of people talking". When we tell a story in cinema we should resort to dialogue only when it's impossible to do otherwise.
Alfred Hitchcock

With the exception of two moments when the title word is spoken by the main character, first as a girl and later as an old woman, Come is a film which tells its story entirely without the use of dialogue.

Not many short fiction films can tell their stories in this way. Some, in fact, are about the verbal interaction of characters and must therefore be dialogue-based. This is true, for example, of Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes (U.S.A., 1986), Ariel Gordon's Goodbye Mom (Mexico, 1997) and Nina Mimica's The War Is Over (Italy, 1997), each of which is a remarkable achievement in its own unique way. In Come we find a different kind of story to be told, and consequently non-verbal storytelling becomes both possible and necessary. The result is a gem of a rare quality.

When the main character - whether as a young woman in the flashback or as an old woman in the present - is alone or at some distance from others, as she is for perhaps half of this four-minute film's duration, dialogue is of course out of the question. During most of that alone time in the flashback, she positions herself to pursue the man she has chosen, and what she ultimately does both to capture his attention and to lure him to her, is simply to let a pocket watch dangle on its chain from her hand (shot 24).

In this way, an object is used as bait, and the filmmaker deftly lets us know without any words being spoken: 1) that the watch belongs to the young man, who hurriedly checks his own vest pocket, then looks up at the girl with an almost accusatory expression in his eyes (shots 27-28); 2) that he will have to leave his two friends and follow her if he wants to get it back (shot 29); and 3) that what we are witnessing here is in itself a deft move on the young woman's part, as the smile on the friend's face testifies (shot 26).

Shot 24

Shot 25

Shot 26

Shot 27

Shot 28

Shot 29

Having separated the man she has chosen from his friends, and finally standing right beside him, she smiles (shot 31) and tucks the watch in his vest pocket, which she then smoothes down with her hand in a gesture that amounts to momentarily caressing his chest (shot 32). His looking down at her hand at this moment (shot 33) shows that he understands the full meaning of her gesture, and he willingly follows her when she takes him by the hand and tells him "Come" (shot 34).

Shot 29 (cont.)

Shot 30

Shot 31

Shot 31 (cont.)

Shot 32

Shot 32 (cont.)

Shot 33

Shot 34

Only one word has until this point been spoken, and yet a great deal has been told by means of eye-contact and smiles, the beginnings of touching, and at the center of it all, the use of a meaningful object as a focus of attention.

Having now led her young man into a cabin where they can no longer be seen by anyone else (shot 35), the young woman continues to take the initiative, first by looking up into his eyes (shot 38) and by touching his hair and face while her own mouth visibly savors her conquest and the first kiss that will quickly ensue (shots 39-40). We are then treated to an exquisite montage of touching and of the satisfaction it gives her (shots 41-46).

Shot 34 (cont.)

Shot 35

Shot 36

Shot 37

Shot 38

Shot 39

Shot 40

Shot 40 (cont.)

Shot 41

Shot 42

Shot 43

Shot 44

Shot 44 (cont.)

Shot 45

Shot 46

Shot 46 (cont.)

Returned now to the present, and to the old woman who is remembering these events, we see her pick up the watch she had reached for (shot 6) before the flashback began, and tuck it into her lover's pocket, repeating in this way - perhaps as a kind of in-joke they share in re-enacting the early history of their relationship - the gesture that had first united them (shots 48-49). She then makes eye-contact and smiles, then once again takes his hand in hers (shot 51) and completes the original ritual by saying to him "Come".

Shot 47 (cont.)

Shot 48

Shot 49

Shot 50

Shot 51

Shot 52

Much of the wordless eloquence in this film is based on such silent gestures as the making of eye-contact, smiling, and touching. And equally important in this context is making an object - the pocket watch - a focus of the characters' and of our own attention. As such, it serves a number of storytelling functions: 1) as bait, used to lure the young man away from his friends; 2) as a link between the present and the past, connecting the old couple to the couple they were when they both were young, particularly in the act of tucking the watch in the vest pocket (shots 32 and 49); and 3) as a symbol both for the passing of time and for the heart of its owner.

In Come, we see a love relationship which withstands the test of time, surviving as it does from the moment the two young lovers first become a couple in the bloom of their youth, to the present in which their appetite for one another persists into old age. To whatever degree the watch is an embodiment of time, it gives an extra resonance to the film's portrayal of the love relationship as time-transcending. And at the end of the film, when we see to our delight that the couple is still alive and well and that their tenderness and attraction to one another are undiminished, the watch can be seen as a symbolic expression of the fact that time has been on their side, like an old friend - an ally rather than an adversary.

The watch is also defined for us as belonging to the man, as being a part of him. Given both the location of its "home" vest pocket, and its role in the relationship, the watch can be seen as symbolizing the heart of the man, his "ticker", also in that the woman in the story has won his heart and cherished it during all the intervening years.

In all these ways, letting an object take on and carry out storytelling functions is an important aspect of the wordless eloquence of Come.

Finally, in making almost all of the storytelling non-verbal, Marianne Ulrichsen is able to give to the one word spoken in the film, "Come," the full weight of its meaning, both in luring the man to the woman, and in inviting him on what would turn out to be a life-long journey.

Shot 11

Shot 13

Again it is the woman who speaks the one word in the film, who sets the couple's agenda. Unlike the woman we see carried by two men who teasingly threaten to drop her into the fire (shot 13), and who in that sense is part of a story controlled by men, the main character in Come is a woman who shapes and manages her own story, who knows exactly what she wants and how to get it, and whose single word and silent gestures make things happen.

to the top of the page