This isn’t a perfect portrait of love – but then again, is love ever perfect? Love isn’t a condition, but rather the act of choosing to be with someone every day, even if that relationship can sometimes feel unbearable. The exploration of this choice is what makes Daria Geller‘s Him & Her so compelling and refreshing to watch. Based on Anton Chekhov’s short story He & She, Geller’s film is what she calls an “anti-fairy tale” that ruthlessly probes into the very nature of romance.
Him & Her is an impressively cinematic short that feels more like a feature film in how deeply the characters and world are portrayed on screen. The film’s opening sequence exhilarates in how the camera dashes after a young journalist as he moves through a crowded street and up a flight of stairs. Geller, who considers herself a cinematographer first, sets an exciting pace early on and that bleeds into the rest of her craft throughout the film.
In what can only be described as rhythmic filmmaking, the camera moves around her characters in a kind of dance. Much like the dynamic of the couple, we’re given a perspective that is in a perpetual state of motion, pushing and pulling in a way that echoes the way they feel for one another. “For every scene, we’d do a mise-en-scene with the actors so that I could get an idea of how they were going to move – I wanted to avoid cutting their acting as much as possible,” Geller tells Short of the Week. And she was right to do so because actors Evgeniy Kharitonov and Miriam Sekhon’s performances are so authentic that it feels like they really would orbit in and out of each other’s worlds.
“My professor at the time said that turning He & She into a film wouldn’t be possible”
“As a student, I remember my professor at the time said that turning He & She into a film wouldn’t be possible. How would I be able to adapt something with no real narrative into a short film? How would I be able to stay true to the original, but also bring something of myself into the final result? Chekhov is my favourite writer, so I wanted to make sure that I made something worthy of his work,” Geller explains.
There’s a dark humor to Chekhov’s original story, composed of a series of letters between two lovers, that allows the reader to observe the relationship from afar, with humour and without any judgment. Yet with Geller’s Him & Her, the couple reflects on one another in between flashbacks, providing glimpses into what makes their dynamic so fitting. While at times, her spoiled nature and his depressed drunkenness implies that they might be toxic for each other, Geller reveals in small intimate moments just how much they really care for one another. It goes without saying that I absolutely love how this film ends and I felt more in love with them because of their struggles to keep each other afloat.
Geller had been wanting to make a short film for quite some time and though she had directed plenty of music videos and fashion films, she knew that narrative work is something very different and wanted to lend her filmmaking style to material that she came across years ago. “It just felt right to have my first narrative short film being inspired by something that has accompanied me since I first ventured into the world of cinema as a student,” Geller tells Short of the Week.
Shot over the course of three days in Moscow, the production took about three weeks from start to finish once she found her perfect lead actors. “It was all a bit of an adventure – once I confirmed the actors I just booked my flights and booked a flat. The first few nights were spent with the crew working out how to make it all happen in just three days. I had a clear vision of the film, of how it should look and feel like as it’s something that I’ve been thinking about since I was a student. Now it was more a question of making it happen and putting the pieces together,” says Geller.
And boy did it come together! This is an absolute gem of a film that honestly isn’t something I’d typically gravitate towards. But Geller’s intense cinematic style, attention to detail, and her dedication to authenticity in her portrayal of love is what makes this film so special.