A meditative character study focusing on Paul Harper, a desperate father who’s exhaustive search for his lost son has led him down a path of unintended exile.
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Directed by Alexander Hankoff
“Alexander Hankoff’s Missing is a hauntingly intense meditation on grief and loss, a film that draws the audience into its mysterious and meditative qualities through its uneasy suspense and striking cinematography. Paul Harper, a middle-aged man, wanders through the woods and arrives in a small town. As the narrative unfolds, we start to realize what it is that sent him on this path. What at first seems like a lonely hiker about to combat his midlife crisis, turns into something much darker and more pressing. But, with every revelation, more looming questions arise.
With the wilderness setting of its early moments, the film evokes works such as Into the Wild or Kelly Reichhard’s Old Joy—films that bring the divide between the outdoors and society into sharp relief. But, as the story unfolds, the mysterious aspects of the work overtake these superficial comparisons, giving way to a more personal, profound approach. What becomes clear is that the trauma and hurt that affects Paul is internal and the setting incidental—Paul is alienated through loss in a different sense, situating him in a longer lineage of “man set apart” films in the tradition of Taxi Driver on to Lynn Ramsey’s You Were Never Really Here, or even the Joker. Paul is self-destructively erasing his bonds with society in order to follow a self-enforced masculine code, but, in the case of Missing, the alienation burrows deeper inward towards grief than outwards towards violence.
The way trauma informs Paul’s decision to live detached from functioning society is slowly unveiled by Hankoff in the form of a series of expository reveals. A resolute focus on Paul (Paul Arthaud), produces an intimate character study that, when combined with Hankoff’s visually sophisticated direction never allows the film to loosen its grip on the viewer’s attention. But, this focus broadens out at key moments away towards backstory—voice mail messages play a key role, as Paul occasionally reconnects to the relationships he has abandoned, providing heart-breaking context. His whole life has been taken over by the unresolved threads of his painful past, but in his obsessive dedication, he ignores that there are still people depending on him. He is not the only one who has to deal with the emotional ramifications of the film’s unacknowledged precipitating events, as the calls from his estranged, distraught wife make achingly clear.
The initial inspiration for the film grew out an interest in bringing “the personal story of one out of the half-million people who went missing in 2018 to the surface so viewers could empathize closer with this common tragedy“. While this topical concern motivated Hankoff, the film’s distinct execution was influenced by technical curiosity. As the director explains:
“The motivation behind the project came in late 2018 when I had just taken ownership of my Alexa LF camera and Cooke S7 lenses. I filmed Missing in the LF’s full-frame aspect ratio of 1.43:1 in order to explore a variety of environments and how they translated to such a large frame. I was very happy with how beautifully the camera and lenses rendered the wide variety of locations Paul travels through in the film, ranging from massive lakes and mountain landscapes to cramped motel rooms.“
[…continue reading on ShortoftheWeek.com]” – S/W Curator Georg Csarmann
Paul Arthaud – Paul Harper
Kelly McAndrew – Rachel Harper
Dean J. Harper – Jack Harper
Rich Gilfillan – Motel Desk
Alex Trierweiler – Telephone Voices
Nick Suttle – Writer/Producer
Jenny Czyborra – Stills Photographer/DIT
Damon Hankoff – Camera Assistant
Cody Hanu – Production Assistant
Victor Lazaro – Steadicam Operator
Alexander Hankoff – DP
Alex Trierweiler – Editor
Mikey Rossiter – Colorist
Rochelle Brown – Color Producer
Blake Rice – Color Production Coordinator
Evan Bauer – Color Production Coordinator
Daniel Morris – VFX/Conform
Kristen Paladino – Casting Director
Reproduced on this channel with the permission of the filmmakers.