Beyond the stars, hazy street lamps, and glossy pavement, lies a story just out of frame. In a mysterious film by alum François Jaros, Oh What A Wonderful Feeling is a drastically dark departure from his comedic short, Life’s A Bitch. A surreal portrait of a young woman who finds her place within a roadside harem, this 15-minute short is an uncannily honest depiction of humanity in all its gritty glory.
Be it exploring secret desires in the shadows or fighting like animals over women, people do strange things when they feel like no one is watching and that’s exactly why Jaros’ use of framing is so effective here. With stunning cinematography by Olivier Gossot, it’s what we can’t see that leaves just enough to the imagination. Wherever the light doesn’t touch, be it just past the halo of a street lamp, there alludes a larger force at work and a sense of foreboding that’s hard to shake. What happens in the darkness in the wee hours of the morning is the very crux of the film’s success.
“What interested me most was having the narrative just outside of the frame; to suggest that there’s a bigger world, a bigger thing and something maybe meaner, more strange happening … to suggest that the world goes on beyond,” Jaros explains to Short of the Week.
This world just on the periphery is what makes Oh What A Wonderful Feeling transcend into the fantastical and it’s not until the end of the film that it’s fully realized. Hinting at the supernatural or some kind of cosmic awareness, the film begins with an unnerving suicidal fox on the road, before shots of glistening stars and a tree that bursts into flame create a subtle exploration of the fantasy genre. Without beating us over the head with world building, Jaros effectively builds intrigue instead.
In stark contrast to the film’s foreboding nature, dread is offset by carefully composed comedic moments. They do nothing to relieve the tension of the film, but instead raise questions about the group of prostitutes and their pimp. Eating lunch together and giving a “happy retirement card” to a work colleague, it’s clear that there’s something running much deeper between them that goes beyond making money. This adds to the absurdity of their situation and it’s hard not to laugh at the pack of them.
Oh What A Wonderful Feeling is an atmospheric puzzle of a narrative, that almost shouldn’t be allowed to work. As moments at the truck stop piece together, so too does a feeling of compassion and a growing understanding of the sinister world. Alluding to an almost biblical use of storytelling, the protagonist played by Karelle Tremblay is more akin to something like Adam’s supposed first lover, Lilith, in Jewish mythology, as she becomes a night creature herself. In this context, the female characters exude both power and powerlessness that create thick tension throughout.
A powerfully chilling film, Oh What A Wonderful Feeling is reminiscent of David Lynch’s work and will make you want to crawl out of your skin. It’s screened at Cannes’s Semaine de la critique, TIFF, BFI London Film Festival, Slamdance, and Gijón International Film Festival. Jaros is currently working on two features and a TV show and is known for much of his commercial work.