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Crestfallen (2011)
Tonight's Short Presentation


Starring: Deneen Melody, Michael Partipilo, Taylor Metzger

Written By: Russ Penning Directed By: Jeremiah Kipp

See It Here: http://vimeo.com/20785570

The Story

Put far too simply, Crestfallen is the story of a woman (Deneen Melody, Western X) in the process of committing suicide.  As the blood starts to flow from her wrist and into the water, she flashes back to the moments that made her life beautiful, and to those that caused everything to come crashing down around her.  What happens next is open to interpretation, and I’ll leave you to discover and ponder that for yourself.

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I’m not sure that I will ever want to watch Crestfallen again.

In most cases, a sentence like that would be the start of a “bad” review, but that is absolutely not the case here.  Indeed, pretty much everything about Cresftallen is dead solid perfect, and that is exactly why I find it so hard to watch.  The emotional response it generates is that powerful. 

Crestfallen is six minutes and five seconds of beautifully filmed, exquisitely crafted pain.  It has no dialogue, and it doesn’t need any.  The camera does all of the talking, and the hauntingly minimalist music of Harry Manfredini (of Friday the 13th fame) takes care of the punctuation.  If you can watch this and come away feeling nothing, then the cops from Blade Runner want to talk to you, because you just failed the Voigt-Kampf Empathy Test.

Start with the cinematography, which is superb.  Thanks to the efforts of Director of Photography Dominick Sivilli and Director Jeremiah Kipp, what you see on the screen isn’t so much camera technique as it is brushstrokes through a lens.  Light, shadow, color, focus; every aspect of the science of filmmaking is so flawlessly applied that it becomes invisible unless you’re looking for it, which in turn allows the members of the audience to bring their full attention to the art being put on display before them.  For example, once upon a time, some chap named Hitchcock made a little movie you might have heard of called Dial M for Murder, and he insisted that for the all-important murder scene to be perfect, the scissors involved needed to be not just any scissors, but gleaming scissors.  History has proven him correct; decades later, everyone remembers the gleaming scissors.  In Crestfallen, one thing that struck me immediately was and remains the gleaming knife.   Details like this separate the good from the great, and Crestfallen is loaded with them.

For another example, the lady in the bathtub draws that gleaming knife down, not across.  I honestly hope you don’t understand the significance of that, but if you do, it makes the scene all that much more powerful.  Again, the devil – and the art – is in the details.

And speaking of the lady in the tub, Deneen Melody is nothing short of magnificent here.  You’d have to be blind not to notice that she’s naked in that tub, or that she looks like she just stepped out of an Aphrodite exhibit at an art gallery, however, the true measure of the strength of her performance comes from the fact that this is quickly – indeed, immediately – shunted to the back of the viewer’s mind as “miscellaneous information” because she opens up a conduit of pain that punches the viewer straight in the heart.  Yes, this suicide is a profoundly private moment – as are all of the memories that we bear witness to profoundly private – and Melody does not betray that privacy, but she portrays the inner pain of it all so convincingly that the audience can’t help but experience it with her.  Through Deneen Melody, this woman’s sorrows become our sorrows, her destroyed joys our destroyed joys, and her last grasps at unspoiled beauty our own reason to not collapse into a heap when the credits roll.

Please, casting directors of the world, take note of this actress who can convey so much without saying a word, and sign her up.

And while we’re on the subject, all of you behind-the-camera talent spotters, have a look at this director and DP, too.  The DP even does editing, and a superb job of it, too.  What could have been random images and a jarring motion slide show of the past and present instead mesh into a seamless visual stream (helped wonderfully, of course, by Harry Manfredini’s haunting music), effectively telling a story that surely we’ve all heard a thousand or more times and making it resonate afresh as though this was the first time such a tragedy had happened.  Even without title cards or dialogue, the audience never needs to ask what’s going on or who’s who; it’s all crystal clear.  Ring; that would be the husband.  Memories of doing shots; that would be the best friend.  The only question involves the little girl: is it always the present day daughter, or perhaps at some point a flash even farther back?  But that, I think you’ll agree, is a good kind of question.

Bottom line, Crestfallen is amazing, and that’s that.  I honestly can’t think of a single mistake made by anyone involved with this movie.  The filmmakers set out to tell a powerful story without words in a very short amount of time, and through Crestfallen, they have more than accomplished that mission.  This is one short film that will stay with you far, far longer than most of the multimillion dollar features being spit out by Hollywood nowadays.  Though it is far from being the “feel good movie of the year” – indeed, if you have any heart at all, you may feel rather down after watching it, no matter how you interpret what happens – it is never the less a must-watch for anyone who wants to see what real art can be achieved on a small budget with a movie camera and a group of dedicated people who possess both talent and a true love for their craft.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, April, 2012

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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