April 7, 2010
By Paul Pritchard

The shocking story of the depraved and the incorrigible. This woman is CONDEMNED.

  • Directed By: Oren Shai
  • Written By: Oren Shai
  • Country: USA
  • Released: 2010
  • Running Time: 14 minutes
  • Links: Official Site
  • Drama, Reviews

Condemned centres on Prisoner #1031 (Margaret Anne Florence), an anonymous woman incarcerated in an uncaring prison system and waiting to hear her fate. To say that she is not hopeful would be an understatement – not only does she not expect to be released but she is also terrified by the expectation that she will be struck down by an unknown assassin.

Prisoner #1031s nihilistic ennui is jolted by the arrival of Laura (Aprella) another prisoner who appears to be everything that Prisoner #1031 isnt. Lauras arrival forces Prisoner #1031 to reassess her situation and start to make some decisions. Is this new arrival a potential friend, or will she threaten Prisoner #1031s existence further? And what, if anything, should she do about her new cell mate?

The film does very little to answer these questions, preferring instead to build an atmosphere that is as dark as it is foreboding and allow this short glimpse into the characters lives to play out against the gritty backdrop of a single prison cell.

The atmosphere the film builds is superb. Writer/director Oren Shai has a very strong visual sense which he puts to striking use here to create a look that is dark and grimy. This visual feel, along with a remarkably effective spaghetti-western inspired soundtrack, serves to capture and amplify Prisoner #1031s paranoia. The tone of the film also does an excellent job of capturing the feel of the 1950s, a period for which Shai clearly has a lot of affinity and one which he has a very real talent for recreating in a manner that is both familiar and original.

Of course, it is the strength of the performances that will ultimately bring the film to life and, here, the cast are uniformly excellent. Margaret Anne Florence, especially, does a superb job of carrying the film. She is on screen for the whole of the films running time, often alone, and while very rarely resorting to dialogue, she very effectively manages to bring the audience along to the pit of her characters despair and, towards the end of the film, slightly up again.

Condemned is an excellent film and one that very effectively captures a grungy 1950s inspired aesthetic. The look of the film is remarkably rich with symbolism and this works well with a story that leaves much open for viewers to interpret for themselves. If I have any complaint, its that the film is too short. Although this film works very well, I was left wanting to know much more about the characters, their backgrounds and the environment in which we find them.


One Response to Condemned

  1. Get Condemned on Friday 13th | Pulpmovies on August 11, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    [...] (review, trailer) will be having its New York première as part of the SVA Film Society screening series. [...]

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