An Irish short released next Wednesday will take an innovative approach to the pandemic, both in subject matter and assembly. Masks will be released on Wednesday, August 11th.
Masks is a new short film by Dublin filmmaker Conor Tobin, a dreamlike piece which captures some of the complex and paradoxical feelings born out of the pandemic experience.
Whilst the pandemic rages, Saoirse rides a train into the city, determined to get a pint, but also determined to ward off her own melancholic existential thoughts. In the pub, we meet a host of characters; a woman waiting for a date, two good friends and their bored girlfriends, a waitress who’d rather be anywhere else but there. A sense of magic hangs in the air in this pub. Little moments seem grand and strange as Saoirse considers making contact with the guy sitting at a nearby table.
Masks is loosely based on Conor’s own experiences of a night out when the pubs had opened briefly in December 2020. The film’s narrative centres around its protagonist Saoirse (Angel Hannigan) while also floating from character to character in a free form way. In this dreamlike world, the characters seem stuck but there is also the possibility of change and transformation.
Conor worked with the actors, rewriting scenes based on rehearsals over zoom, and allowed them to improvise heavily at key moments. As such there is a heavy experimental element to this film which has been baked into the project from the start.
Stars are a recurring motif throughout the piece, specifically in the lighting in the pub and in Saoirse’s dialogue. As described by the director, “I have always equated stars with the great beyond, the unknown, something eternal.”
It also calls up the famous Oscar Wilde quote, “We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking to the stars.” The sense of being stuck during lockdown while at the same time there is a sea of infinite possibility.
James Joyce was also an influence for this short. The dreamlike narratives he weaved in Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake were a big inspiration to Conor. When Joyce spoke of Dublin as an alternate “eternal city” to Rome he set the scene for taking the ordinary and hum drum and elevating it. “In the particular lies the universal,” he once said. This is the spirit in which Conor set out to make Masks. Indeed, a Joyce mural can be seen behind Saoirse as she talks to Patrick outside the pub.
Conor will be participating in next week’s Fillum Chat with Emma Fagan, Thursday at 10pm. These chats provide an outlet for Irish filmmakers and creatives to get the word out on their work, so do tune in for a tweet for more on Masks before its release next week.