Framed in 1:1 aspect ratio, Haar from Ben Hecking is a visually bright and light lo-fi addition to this year’s London Film Festival programme. It stars Kate Kennedy as Jef, a unit production manager who is left stranded in Budapest. As she awaits her next available flight, she receives the tragic news of her father’s passing, catches up with former lovers, has heart-to-heart talks with strangers and begins to understand her relationships with the people she has hurt and others who have hurt her. Haar is shot using a Kodak Super 8 camera that applies a pastel-like texture and enhances the grain of the picture. This attaches a very sentimental tone to the overall presentation of Haar, like finding old photographs tucked away in someone’s old basement. It suits well the aesthetic of its indie soundtrack and themes of rediscovering the past, lost and forgotten dreams and temporary connections with strangers. One downside to this choice of style is it does make it difficult to read any important on-screen texts – and there are quite a few.
Slow-paced and mundane, Haar revels in Jef’s quiet routine. It uses a lot of symmetry with centre framing in open spaces and in shots with crowds of people to amplify Jef’s loneliness. Accented by the intimacy of the soundscape – with every breath, every swallow and stilted stutter heard loud and clear – there’s a contrast in the dialogue coming in and out of the focus, with telephone calls and messages fading out into the background, conversations drifting through certain scenes and Jef’s unresponsive demeanour to people talking to her. This highlights how unaware Jef is of the world surrounding her, sometimes almost to the point of disregard for other people. This is a trait that’s pointed out by one of her ex-lovers.
The first clue into Jef’s estranged relationship with her father is her name, the reason being, that her father had always wanted a boy, so it stuck. This dynamic becomes the centrepiece of Haar as Jef tries to reconcile grieving a man she had a difficult relationship with, while simultaneously discovering parts of that relationship that make her question whether or not it was as bad as she thought. It’s this relationship – or lack thereof – that dictates the way Jef interacts with the men around her. The film elucidates all of that with memory through the senses, evoking specific emotions attached to the sound she once heard or the sight she once saw with every moment she recalls with her father. The visuals relay this to the audience through the layering of different clips and sound on top of Jef speaking. It’s a calming technique that subdues the chaos within Jef’s mind.
Haar is quietly introspective, touching on loneliness, guilt for the death of a loved one and understanding of one’s selfishness in old relationships. A coming-of-age for those in their adult years, Haar also examines the fleeting moments between two people who only meet once in their lives and never again after.
Haar does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Haar here: