Legend has it that if a human man falls in love with a mermaid she will grow legs; legs that will, if she so desires, carry her far, far away from the very man she cast her watery spell upon… But what becomes of the human man, when her spell remains but she is gone? – Edward Dunstan
The Muse was a short film directed by photographer Tim Walker, written by Mia Bay and Simone Glover. Starring Ben Whishaw as the main character, the photographer Edward Dunstan and Kristen McMenamy as the muse – possibly his lover.
Tim Walker is a British Photographer who normally shoots for fashion magazines like Vogue, W magazine and Love Magazine. I have to say, I’m not a person who read magazines so I don’t know much about Tim Walker. His videography work, however, I do follow.
His short films are always visually stunning and skillfully shot, they have a certain edge that very much closely to a moving artwork more than a video. My favourite in all of his short film is ‘The Muse.
The Muse is a short film about a photographer and filmmaker, Edward Dunstan (Ben Whishaw) whose become obsessive with his muse, up to the point he neglects the person who helps him brings the muse to life. Because of this obsession and his way of treating her like a possession rather than a person result with the muse leaving him. What we see now in this short film is aftermaths of everything. The film of a work-obsessed artist taking a photograph of his muse inside an old, eerie water tank. Using a fairytale as a baseline for his possible project, having a darker shade to all the scene make it less of a fairytale but more of a sombre touch.
The way the film is filmed have such layers to them. It attracts audience immediately with the world laced with a hint of darkness, and solemn music. The scenes are almost high in contrast, it was sometimes almost too dark, too hollow and of course too lonely. It creates a perfect solitude atmosphere embedded with a high modality of cold tone but at the same time very much intriguing. I love the combination between the grainy shots signifying Edward brilliant works but it also represents a snippet of flashbacks to the time when he was full of life. The grainy scene was filled with lights, not like the white light throughout the film but fill bright sunlight, almost suggesting the past was a much happier time.
Throughout the film, Edward also talks about his muse in a mythology way. Connecting the real world of a much more dreamlike world with a fantastical narrative about the mythological creature, the mermaid. His deep and slightly husky, dread and hollow voice absolutely touches your skin and I don’t know about you but I got goosebumps from it. It’s so real, so eerie and so anguished just keep me waiting for it. The thing about it is that Edward doesn’t talk for the entire short film, just overlaying sound of his voice echoes in part of the film, not the whole. As if he knew when we are most confuse and slowly explain. The way he talks brings out a more poetic side like he’s reading out a poem. The mermaid (Kristen McMenamy) spent most of her time inside the tank, shot cut shot between her and Edward filled with love and longing, so gentle in the beginning. But soon become less of loving but more hurtful as she soon realised perhaps Edward is not looking at her the way she wanted him to. Perhaps he is looking at her through his lens, watching her movement, he might seem to be close but the truth is he is distance.
She asked for nothing, except that I saw her,
But he didn’t, not in the way she wanted to be seen.
The Muse brings out the tragic story of lost, it played out the tortured soul of both the ‘Mermaid’ who wanted to be seen outside the of the water tank and the suffering artist who realise how empty his life become when she’s gone.
Ben Whishaw really did a fantastic job in this short film, he brings out the longing for his lost muse, his guilt for the harsh way he treats her but at the same time highlights a discomforting image of an obsession even toward the end. He completely merges himself with the image of what the Film Exchange describe as ‘ a tortured artist with haunting vacancy’. It mesmerises me how in the end he still refuses to acknowledge her to as a human and still regards his muse as the mythology that he so infatuates with, mermaid.
Over and all The Muse is a daunting, mesmeric, beautifully shot filled with allusion and just a tad of magical vibe to it. It truly is enchanting, it captures your attention and leaves you there wondering what Edward would do next. Its melancholiness will most likely leave a mark in you after you have seen it. I really recommend you to watch it.