Expressing the same sense of nihilism, heartbreak, and grief that director Liam Beazley sets out to capture; Birdsong is a chilling foray into blind faith and the unknown.
There’s a misleading simplicity to Birdsong. At the outset, its performances, setting, and creeping ambiance all conjure a familial feeling that has its place within psychological horror – think A24 films like The Witch. Its foray into grief is masked by a creeping uncertainty that wants to pull back the curtain and scream “all is not as it seems”, and to take its barebones plotting (if that’s what we could call it) to hide a multiplicity that warrants multiple watches until you can straddle all the pieces that Liam Beazley interweaves. Birdsong‘s message might be unsettling, but it’s potent, heartbreaking, and a demonstration of masterful visual storytelling.
Liam Beazley’s (the film’s writer) synopsis of the film is as: “following the death of their mother, one sister tries to convince the other that she isn’t really gone”, and at its simplest nature that is what Birdsong is about. However, even at the director’s admission, Birdsong is interwoven with “hope, evocative of universal feelings of grief, nihilism, and blind faith”, and this adds an undeniable complexity that gives way to multiple layers of the film. Let it be warned though, there’s no element of catharsis in Birdsong. When the final black screen appears with the film’s title card, it keeps you yearning for more. As a result, Birdsong feels quite abstract, but artfully so.
There’s a tonal heaviness to Birdsong, which conjures feelings of pessimism and sorrow. Its imagery and constant reference to its main conceits – birds and birdsongs – only go to lengths to heighten a creeping uneasiness that underscores the film’s main draw: its dialogue. Both poetic and haunting, it’s a film that begs you to pay complete attention to be enraptured in its imagery and word conjuring. With that in mind, director and cinematographer (the same aforementioned, Liam Beazley) keep Birdsong‘s cinematography paired back, focusing on slow zooms and colour work to bring depth to the charged story. In fact, the subtlety in which everything is handled is indicative of a master craftsman, and Beazley’s competence in all the roles he takes on is rather quite astounding.
Birdsong also boasts two sisters, Charly and Robyn Faye, who play the film’s only characters with a surprising muteness. That’s not to say the actresses misunderstand their characters, but rather as one begins to slip away, there’s no need to forcefully play the emotion. Grief is multifaceted and as it seemingly numbs one sister who slips away, it leaves the other to cope with more pain, both Fayes make an excellent turn in their characters. They trust the script and ambiance the film will conjure with some post-production magic.
In the director’s statement, Birdsong seems to want to conjure some hand at hope, something which stands a little odd at times with my takeaway of the narrative. As the clouds darken overhead and one sister loses her smile, it’s not immediately clear what the final takeaway should be – or even if there is one. What is clear though is that Birdsong is short filmmaking on small budgets at its finest, and a piece that is both moving and saddening all in itself.
Birdsong (dir. Liam Beazley), premiers on YouTube on December 8, 2022. You find the film by clicking here.