“PRONOIA”— Stranded



Amos Lassen

When a man (Stelio Savante) and a woman (Hannah Jane McMurray) are suddenly stranded in a fancy hotel because a thunderstorm does not permit makes travel, they decide to have a drink together at the hotel bar. There are no other hotel guests around. What is interesting here is that the man and woman are total strangers and each has no idea how to know what the other is thinking. Things become even more interesting when they learn via the TV in the bar of the disappearance of a high-ranking Pentagon official (Marston Allen). Just as the two strangers cannot read each other, neither can we read them and we can only wonder if the disappearance is somehow related to what is happening between them. 

“Pronoia” is obviously a mystery but as I watched, I had no idea of where it is going. Written and directed by Nick Efteriades, we find ourselves waiting out the storm in the hotel bar with the two strangers. We sense that there is seduction going on and that the TV announcement will affect their evening but everything is very mysterious. I cannot help but wonder if I am being manipulated by the director or the characters and the sense of mystery heightens on a second viewing. There is a sense of beauty here and the atmosphere created seems to determine how we understand what is going on.

I realize that I am being as mysterious as the film but please understand, I am guessing. I have been thrust into a plot I do not understand and am enjoying every moment.I do not remember ever seeing the word “pronoia” before and I assumed that since it is the title of the film, its meaning would come to light and it does in its own way. I learned that it is defined as the state of mind that is the opposite of paranoia. It refers to the idea that there is a conspiracy that is beneficial to those involved and adheres to the philosophy that the world is set up to secretly benefit people. Could that be what is going on here?

I feel the tension between the man and the woman that their alienation brings about but that tension also brings them together. The man is a total mystery and the more we see of him, the less we learn. We want him to share something about himself. The woman seems somewhat alien but beautiful and we sense her vulnerability or so we think. And then, little by little, the story takes shape. You may ask if this is satisfying? I must say that it is but you must be prepared for what you will see on the screen and in your mind’s eye. David Lynch comes to mind as does the late and great Frederico Fellini. I remember when I was a college student and Fellini’s “8 ½” was the range. The critics and moviegoers loved it but when asked what it meant, there was silence in most cases.

I have the idea that the short is to be developed into a full feature film and we get an idea of what we might expect. Let me stress that what I am writing here are my own opinions. I do not know the director nor have I seen any of his work before this. I have the impression that this short film is something of a test by which he can see if he is able to use a concept that he wants to expand later. Undoubtedly he was influenced by something he had seen or heard and it stayed in his mind as an idea to be used sometime. There is something about conspiracy or pronoia here and clues that will be dealt with in the feature film when it is made. Would I want to see it then? My answer is without question since I do not think that what I saw in the short will leave me anytime soon. I might add that repeated viewings throw light on the plot and we do reach the “aha” moment but there is still more to know.

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