[Fantasia 2020 Review] THE FOURTH WALL

THE FOURTH WALL‘s tagline is deliciously ironic: “This will be her finest performance yet.” What does that mean? What horror is to come? THE FOURTH WALL, directed by Kelsey Bollig, is a grisly short about an actor frustrated with her role in Shakespeare’s “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream.”

And does Chloé ever hate it. It opens with her running lines, spitting at her image in the mirror, blood running out of her nose, screaming in French. This eleven-minute short is the actor’s worst nightmare layered over genre and explores the underbelly of the theater world. Chloé didn’t get the role she deserved because she didn’t sleep with the director, instead, the actor who slept with the director got the part. This injustice bothers Chloé, who sits at the mirror, repeating, “What is beauty?”

Did she become a classical actor because she loved the beauty of words? No wonder she hates everyone. The other actors are vain and self-serving; they all want to be stars. But being an actor is hard. An actor’s life is rife with injustice, particularly if you identify as a woman, BIPOC, LGBTQIA, or a non-abled performer. Though everyone suffers, there’s enough to go around.

THE FOURTH WALL examines the frustration actors experience and turns that resentment into horror. Chloé hates the American actor who can’t speak French. She hates what the American actor represents. I imagine that Americans are considered shallow, talentless, fame-hungering social-climbers. Chloé hates their cookie-cutter souls but she hates the other actors as well.

One of the actors steps on her lines, seemingly on purpose, and skips Chloé’s monologue. She forgets her lines conveniently when it hurts Chloé the most. Is Chloé paranoid, though? She could be, these types of mistakes do happen. According to Equity rules, after a production opens, the director isn’t allowed to give notes. Most non-equity houses follow suit. So who can Chloé go to about this? Maybe the stage manager, but the stage manager is probably sleeping with or wants to sleep with the actor who stepped on Chloé’s lines.

Is Chloé a narcissist who will do anything for the spotlight, or is she a brilliant, avant-garde actor pushed to her limits? Each interpretation is interesting to me. Perhaps, it’s a mix of possibilities. But the way Chloe’s eyes glow after the final scene is pretty telling.

THE FOURTH WALL is directed so well; it deserves to be a full-length feature. It’s a stylish piece with an exciting soundtrack, lighting, and camera-work. The pace mimics the hot feeling of performing; it’s an energy drink times ten, exhilarating, which is probably why so many people want to be actors.

Someone, please give director and writer, Kelsey Bollig, a bunch of money to produce this, or another future project. THE FOURTH WALL is screening at The Fantasia International Film Festival as part of the Small Gauge Trauma 2020 block of shorts.

Tiffany Aleman
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