A man, Antonio, wanders in a wilderness, inside and out. He is barred from being with Olivia, the woman he loves, and sees her only in his mirror. When he seeks help to bring her out of the mirror from a witch doctor, who counsels him against his desires, and a manipulative apothecary who seeks only to line his own pockets, he comes to a crossroads. Does he follow his dream to destruction, or face the possibility of an endless lonely misery?
This, in a nutshell, is the premise of the newest YouTube offering from Florida wunderkind Fred Rabbath in his Shakespeare-inspired movie, “As I Am”. Again he makes a dramatic departure from his most recent fare, a sci-fi cop drama entitled “Clocked Out”. At the same time, this isn’t the first time he’s paid homage to classic literature. His film “The Ninth Circle” is inspired from Dante’s “Inferno” and is also very worth watching.
This film, while not adhering to any one Shakespearian text, holds an affectionate hint of the Bard. The characters speak poetically at times, sometimes in rhyme, though not striving for iambic pentameter by any means. The magic and fantasy of the film hints in small ways to “Romeo and Juliet” and maybe a little bit of “The Tempest”, but the story also drew similarities to certain Greek myths, particularly the story of Pandora’s Box and the story of Orpheus and Eurydice.
The look of the landscape is similar to the look of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Even the opening and closing art by Michelle Vandy are reminiscent of John Howe’s and Alan Lee’s magnificent Tolkien fantasy artwork. Sean Beeson and Vanessa Vandy’s original music transports us and provides that essential emotional pathway that makes the story function as well as it does.
The special effects and cinematography are astonishing – especially for such a small film, and such an intimate portrayal of one man striving for an obsessive idea. The look of the film is stunning in every way. The images of loneliness and yearning stuck with me long after the movie was finished.
The emotion of the piece is poignant as well – excellently played by Lenny Thomas, who also had a part in the Rabbath short “Disconnected”, and the beautiful Victoria Henley, who can also be seen in Fred’s film “Awkward Turtles”.
Mary Moon’s expressive performance as the Witch Doctor is beautiful and grounding to the film. Just as in her performances in “Faceless” and “Disconnected”, she has the gift of communicating volumes of emotion and information even when there’s nothing for her to say.
Art Wallace’s performance as the magical drug dealer (a sort of Shakespearian Morpheus) deserves special mention. His presence and his scenes with Antonio were electric. Art’s turned in some terrific villainous performances in Fred films before – notably the films “Darkwood” and “Drawn” – but this one seems his strongest and most confident performance to date.
The short film by FC Rabbath, “As I Am”, is a thing of beauty and quiet cinematic power, elevating the struggle of one man against himself to a tale of mythic timelessness. Appropriate for all audiences.