To describe Michael Frei’s minimalist film Not About Us as a particularly strange experience doesn’t do justice to the compact, purposefulness of the piece if you scratch just a little underneath its veneer. On the surface, it exudes a distinct stylistic line, full to the brim with surreal sequences of legs on legs and arms on arms, but the underlying premise provides an unusual, but highly intriguing look at the contrasting elements of life, and whether they can indeed cohabitate together or not.
Taking the form of the fledgling stages of a relationship between a man and women, we are exposed to the often seemingly inexplicable start of any connection between two people as they attempt to compose their to-and-fros with similarities. However, as the film poignantly suggests, it is reconciling the contrasting differences that is possibly more important in the evolution of our discovery with one another.
There is a certain expressionistic, angular quality to the film, which only goes to highlight the inevitably tricky, acuteness of development between people, especially those trying hard to court one another. However, that’s not to say that the piece says that compatibility is restricted unless you’re another person’s soul mate; the idea of a soul mate is somewhat platitudinous anyway. No, instead it dances and flits around the screen letting us know that universal balance isn’t something that’s made up of proportional elements, but that it derives from those antithetical aspects that compromise to get along with each other.
Such is the concept of the film. Its black and white make-up don’t necessarily indicate shades that will naturally come together, but the theatre of the two is such that the turmoil of becoming whole with each other, the journey, if you will, is proven to be just as vital to the eventual reunification, because through the struggle even colours like black and white, deemed as somewhat dull in essence can blossom into much, much more.
A fascinating short film, that underlines that age-old cliche of less is more, Frei’s interest in the contrast between distinct opposites is a beguiling study that is both mesmerising and thoughtful from beginning to end.