Underground Film Journal

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Short Film: Know What You Mean

By Mike Everleth ⋅ January 27, 2011

Language is deliciously skewered in Lyn Elliot‘s charmingly entertaining short film Know What You Mean, embedded above. What’s a bored girl (Lila Corwin Berman) to do except zero in on her dull dinner date’s (Dan Berman) appalling mangling of popular English idioms? She’s got to keep herself occupied somehow! Perhaps this film will only appeal to any and all language nerds, but if you enjoy a good playful deconstruction on proper speech then this is a real hoot and a hambone.

Figures of speech haven’t been maimed so much since Biff Tannen uttered nonsense like “Make like a tree and get out of here” in the Back to the Future movies. In Elliot’s film above, the male dining companion drops mixed-up whoppers like “Not my piece of cake” and “Come back to bite me in the face.”

Woman on a dinner date

But, the real fun here is how Elliot keeps a film all about talking zipping along with clever visuals, from the literal recreations of the moronic phrases to the woman transforming herself into an uptight school teacher in front of a blackboard. Elliot even changes up how the dinner conversation is shot with dolly moves, oblique angles and intense close-ups. The film is never truly static even though the bulk of it is made up of two people sitting talking at a table.

With such a fine ear for language, it’s no wonder that Elliot originally dreamed of becoming an English professor while studying literature in school, according to her official bio. It was through seeing movies made by women directors like Su Friedrich and Barbara Hammer that led to Elliot’s fall into filmmaking. That’s literature’s loss and cinema’s gain, as Elliot is a real treasure.

You can watch several of her short films on Vimeo, many of which also deconstruct language, and read more about her at her official website.

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