Everything about The Convict suggests slow and careful craftsmanship. The filmmaking, while evidently low-budget, convinces as the work of a seasoned expert – it jolts the viewer into a state of awareness from the beginning with the calm of an empty house being shattered by the suddenness of a broken window; the entrance of an escaped convict who we haven’t yet been given the chance to know. But even the convict, our protagonist, seems to have been chosen carefully. The kindness in his eyes immediately allows the viewer to trust him, to be on his side. The close-ups of his face say all that needs to be said; in the 20 minutes running time, The Convict encapsulates a heavy and plodding sense of desperation.
The potential power of the short film is taken advantage of here, as Mark Battle pays careful attention to a brief moment in time, a pivotal moment in a person’s life, and puts an enormous amount of effort into making significant every moment. Just as in a well-written short story when compared to a novel, the short film has the potential to outweigh a feature-length and actually say more than even some well-made feature films.
Read at Unsung Films: Here Lies Joe.
In The Convict, we witness the few free hours of an escaped convict as he attempts to achieve a few simple things that may put his mind at rest. His objective, it seems, is to reach out to and make contact with his wife. He is not an innocent man, but his incarceration is the result not of a ruthless crime, but a terrible moment, and he represents one of the many people whose freedom is being denied unjustly. Even the harshest and most judgemental viewer is forced to feel immense pity.
At the apex of the film, the filmmaker is able to confirm our thoughts on the nature of the protagonist’s crime – he places David Eller in a position where he is forced to commit another crime; and while the viewer is aware of the backstory behind this second crime (committed just a few hours after getting out!) the tragedy is in our knowledge that the law cannot be merciful or understanding of his reasons, no matter what is said or done. And it is the film’s ability to stir up emotions, force the viewer into confronting an inescapable problem with the law that makes The Convict a film worth looking into. When compared with Mark Battle’s other works, strong films such as The Janitor or Here Lies Joe, The Convict proves to be the most mature and accomplished yet.
Watch the trailer for The Convict here:
Watch The Convict – the full short film – here: