“I’m disgusted by my existence,” laments Oscar (Al Nazemian), the protagonist of Patricia Delso Lucas’s short film For I Am Dead. His words reverberate throughout the rest of the flawed, but ambitious narrative. A treatise on regret, staying true to yourself, identity, and the inconsequential nature of wealth/extravagance, the film bites off more than it can chew – but its moments of insight and the palpable mood of yearning ultimately save it.
Set in late 1800s Europe, in a palatial chateau, the film’s 18 minutes focus remains on Oscar, a wealthy but lonely middle-aged man. “I’m a spoiled man. I’ve had everything, and I’ve felt nothing. Only the boredom of my abundance,” he states mournfully, sitting alone in a chair, reminiscing about his past. The narrative flashes back to his days of debauchery when he was having sex with multiple courtesans.
The hunky gardener, Jude (Riggsby Lane) catches Oscar’s attention. “You’re either death or the devil,” Oscar tells him during an intimate encounter over wine. “You’re here to tempt me to arouse my sins.” Whether Jude ends up being the harbinger of Oscar’s demise is for the viewer to discover.
The sense of place and time is well-established, although the film’s (assumedly) natural lighting renders certain shots slightly underexposed. The acting is a bit stiff. Nazemian does what he can with a thinly-sketched character; more of Oscar’s past would have helped the viewer to either sympathize or loathe him – as it stands, one has trouble figuring out how to feel. Lane is even more blank, reciting his lines as if he just memorized them.
Lucas takes a valiant stab at hefty, existential themes – e.g. the complexities and implications of coming out in the 1800s – yet her blade only scratches their surface. That said, For I Am Dead at least tries to say something substantial: a life of tangible riches but a hollow heart inevitably leads to repentance. Luckily, the filmmaker’s heart is filled with earnestness – hopefully in the next film, she will expand her palette a little bit, so that the visual and thematic scope matches her ambitions.