First-time feature helmer Celine Baril uses an odd mix of old black-and-white photos, tourist-like footage of several European cities and some claustrophobic dramatic scenes to tell a less-than-enthralling story of one guy’s search for his family roots. With its snail-like pacing, sub-par acting and underwhelming emotional impact, “The Absent One” is not likely to stir up much interest, even among the arthouse crowd, and low-tech production values will further limit its appeal.
Pic relates the story of Roland Kadar, who heads to Europe in an effort to figure out why his father, architect and musician Paul Kadar, leapt into the Danube one day in the ’50s and killed himself. After a long scene in Budapest with Roland doing an ultra-bizarre radio interview focused on questions surrounding his father’s death, protag proceeds to Warsaw, Prague and Tokyo for further obscure/grim interludes.
These scenes, all interiors, are intercut with footage, shot in 8mm and blown up to 16mm, of major Euro burgs, including Rome, Vienna, Budapest and Prague, and glimpses of old B&W photos of a family; idea for “The Absent One” was inspired by Baril’s discovery in a Paris flea market of a dusty old photo album.
Pic attempts to create a tale about memory and the ethereal nature of history , but none of the loose threads of the narrative are pulled together by the end, and it’s hard to care much about Roland’s emotional quest. Baril moves what little story there is along at an extremely slow speed, further straining viewer patience. All thesps are non-pros and make little impression.
Soundtrack is anchored by mournful piano tinkling, and lensing is nondescript.