Am someone who has always found Jean Cocteau's work very interesting, of which his monodrama 'La Voix Aux Humaine' ('The Human Voice') is one of his most intriguing for its emotional power and realistic depiction of the emotions a final telephone conversation can bring, though heard by one voice. Also have a lot of love for Poulenc's opera of the same name, beautiful music and an emotional roller-coaster, which incidentally Cocteau apparently loved, not surprising.
2018's 'The Human Voice', even in a modern and simpler setting, has every ounce of that, capturing everything that makes the play and opera as great as they are. It is a must watch and should be given much more exposure when it is better than quite a lot of recent short films. Also think that it is at least major-awards-worthy but its limited release and under-exposure as of now makes that uncertain. Here's to hoping that will change.
'The Human Voice's' photography is stylish and brooding, with a simple and compact but very effective setting and lighting laden with atmosphere that matches the unflinching nature of the story. The simple understated setting, with the psychological thriller look to how it's shot and lit, worked in its favour, anything more, bigger or fancier would have risked being distracting from the drama in what is a very serious and intimate piece.
Really appreciated the restraint of the direction that brought out and wrung out every ounce of complex emotion and atmosphere. The music is haunting and not ham-handed, scored almost like a thought process, when the emotions intensify so does suitably the music while allowing the atmosphere and dialogue speak for themselves.
Furthermore, 'The Human Voice' is beautifully paced, deliberate but handled in a suspenseful and intimate fashion that fits the heart-break and unflinching intensity of the story perfectly. The story, throughout the entire length, is absorbing, unsettling and affecting, where one feels for the protagonist every step of the way and feel her numerous emotions. Even when there is one character only 'The Human Voice' resonates far more than many cases of there being a large cast of characters.
What makes 'The Human Voice' are two things. One is the dialogue. It is uncompromising in its realism, capturing the heartbreak of a final phone conversation in sad circumstances with a lot of truth, humanity and hard-hitting emotion, anyone who's been through the situation will identify with a lot of what is said. Even when you don't hear what is being said on the other end, you have a very good idea and can imagine it. Despite there only being one character and one side of the conversation heard, it is acted, written and staged and paced in a way that feels like a realistic phone conversation.
The other is the performance of Rosamund Pike. Have always found her a talented and better-than-given-credit-for actress, who has grown significantly over the years and taking on films and roles that have stretched her and suited her more since her exceptional performance in 'Gone Girl'. Here she is at her most conflicted, and it is an arresting knockout of a performance. She runs through a wide range of emotions in a one-person (excluding the adorable dogs) show and it is both intense and moving (never overwrought, considering the source material she could have been that, or phoned in), just as much as her performance in 'Hostiles' which also moved me. Judging from my knowledge of the play and my experiences with the opera, Pike's interpretation is dead-on.
Overall, a gem that is more than well worth tracking down and worthy of more attention. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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