Set on the tennis court, Alex and his father Erich are playing a match, which both appearing to be taking seriously. Unbeknownst to them, this competitive game will irrevocably change their relationship and the way they both look at one another. In Am Sand (Break Point), director Guy Lichtenstein pits an ageing father against his teenage son, triggering a subtle, deeper generational confrontation between the two. According to tennis rules, there will only be one winner, but will they walk away feeling defeated?
“I wanted to convey the lesson I would have loved to already learn at the younger character’s age”
Very early on, we get a sense that what is motivating the two protagonists goes deeper than a simple match of tennis, and much more is at stake each time they hit the ball. When we asked Lichtenstein what he and his co-writer Andreas Schiessler wanted to capture in Break Point, they shared that under the surface of this face off between two men of different generations, it is a coming of age story, where one understands how the other refuses to show his vulnerability. As Lichtenstein explains: “I wanted to convey the lesson I would have loved to already learn at the younger character’s age, and be able to then acknowledge the weakness of my own father. Therefore to put up less resistance”.
There is an almost psychological thriller element to the film, as the tension is subtly mounting throughout the short’s 15-minute run-time. From the cinematography to the sound design, the viewer is immersed in that tense atmosphere. DP Germaine Haller perfectly uses the symmetry of the tennis court, the framing carefully constructed to reinforce the generational divide/face-off visually. As they strike the ball back-and-forth, each shot hit with more aggression and purpose, the rally becomes the manifestation of their conversation, echoing how emotional the dialogue actually is and highlighting the importance of what is left unsaid.
With the emotional backbone of the narrative unspoken, the performances of both Stefano Cotugno and Alessandro Kahn are what give the film its depth. On the one side, the father won’t give up this authority over his son, whether they are talking about his work or simply playing the game. While his son, who is about to be an adult, is clearly going to start beating his dad at tennis, and is starting to form his own opinions. Cotugno and Kahn play this multi-layered match with remarkable and captivating authenticity. As the father, Cotugno perfectly captures how his character is not ready to forfeit his status, while Kahn, as the son, navigates the emotional realization that his father is getting older in the most compelling and compassionate (given the situation) manner.
Break Point premiered at the Palm Springs ShortFest in 2021 and we’re happy to host its online premiere on Short of the Week today. Lichtenstein already had a series of different projects in development, including a new short film, his debut feature and an episodic project.