Underground Film Journal

Posted In » Online Cinema

Short Film: Sean Christensen’s Shave

By Mike Everleth ⋅ September 2, 2010

Embedded above is a chillingly deceptive short film by Sean Christensen called Shave. Disguised as a warm, childhood nostalgia piece, the film nicely uses the metaphor of a father shaving as a meditation on a son’s ultimate disappointment upon learning that his father is just a human being after all.

Personally, I do have a soft spot for films in which audio and visuals are presenting two separate components that are linked together thematically. Christensen uses this technique to great effect particularly towards the end when he lets the audio of his childhood video continue to roll while visually we are looking at the same pool, in a decaying, moss-covered state, in the present day. Using this combination creates a new emotional state, one in which the memory of happier times have turned to rot.

Mom and dad holding their baby while sitting on the porch

Also really nice in the film is the way Christensen cuts between shots of the swimming pool in the old video with new images of his father dipping his razor in the sink during his big shave. The cuts really flow together to create a real feeling of continuity between the two locations. Also, later in the film, a shot of the empty sink with just some residue and whiskers spread about creates the idea of the pool being similarly drained: Drained of water, drained of memory, drained of happiness.

One has to wonder about the true autobiography of the film. Christensen narrates the film himself, but did any of this actually happen to him? Are these even truly images of himself and his father? The documentary footage — i.e. what Christensen claims is his mother’s old video and even the still photos — are used to lead us to believe that the narrated story is documentary, too, and not a fiction.

However, all that we have seen is called into being suspect when Christensen admits that he is altering his own memories. He refuses to remember his father without a mustache and never allows us to see him without it, either. The one actual video of the man we take to be Christensen’s father jumping off the diving board is too blurry to discern what state his facial hair is in.

Christensen paints a particular visual portrait of his father by only showing us photos of him with facial hair. And he paints a portrait of himself through the narration of a person who refuses to accept his father for the person his dad wants to be, which hints at there’s maybe something more going on here than just a mustache.

The Shave was a Runner-Up for the Best Experimental Film award at the 2009 — and final — Denver Underground Film Festival. It’s also screened this year at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival and the Nevada City Film Festival.

To learn more about Sean Christensen, please visit his official website.