Abomination

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Abomination is a short film about a young man, Tom, who finds himself torn between his sexual identity and his religious beliefs. When he decides to confide in his church’s priest, the outcome is not the one he expected.

Very recently, the Pope took some baby-steps and tried to open up to the gay community with some surprisingly open-minded statements. On a more local level, however, homophobia is still deeply rooted in religious institutions. It is not that surprising then that many gay Christians may be torn between the intolerant lectures of the scriptures and their sexuality. This short by writer-director Craig Newman visualises this conflict impressively. Newman makes a fitting use of telephoto lenses, tightly framed close-ups and moody cinematography with dark, muted colours in order to allow the audience entrance into the protagonist’s turbulent mind. The result is an emotional, claustrophobic atmosphere that almost pulsates with Tom’s overbearing agonies and conflicts.

Unfortunately, things are not equally impressive in the narrative department. In order to make his point, Craig Newman oversimplifies some things (it is my understanding, for example, that there is some debate in religious circles if Jesus even referred to homosexuality) and as a result, the priest’s part appears to be cartoonish and lacks believability. What is more, the shocking finale prompts some questions (and even objections) about Tom’s characterisation. As we watch him brutally hurt himself, we ask ourselves if this action is justified by what came before it. Why does Tom react is such a way? What exactly does religion mean to him? Why was that priest’s acceptance so important to him?

In my opinion, religion is more like a red herring – at least when it comes to storytelling. It is just one way of many to project one’s fears, ideas, values and hopes. But eventually it all should come down to character and psychology. Tom’s problem is not really his religion. There are deeper reasons why he so desperately seeks acceptance, although at the same time, he also has that much trouble accepting himself. Unfortunately, Newman doesn’t even offer us a hint as to what these reasons may be. That said, actor Matthew Bate manages to play Tom’s part with great subtlety and his performance is quiet and yet heartbreaking. Francesco Rochira, on the other hand plays the priest’s part with an unfitting pomposity since his rather one-sided character doesn’t offer him much room for interpretation.

Craig Newman did a great job visualising the story but for some reason refused to dig a bit deeper. His short film is very well directed, emotional and, in the end, surprising (even if a bit forcefully so), but personally I would like to see a more coherent and complete character study of his tormented protagonist.

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