Perpetual Anamnesis is a barebones short film that reveals complex characters with a simple approach

by Ed Blackadder

Perpetual Anamnesis is an award-winning short film from filmmaker and actor Joseph Villapaz. The quick synopsis of Perpetual Anamnesis reveals that a husband and wife on a video call have a much deeper reality than is first revealed.

Villapaz plays the husband named Doz and the bulk of the short’s key credits are attributed to him as well. The wife, Izmira, is played by Keeley Shantz, and Patricial Lawrence is Doz’s mother.

The style of filmmaking harkens to the Zoom era of filmmaking inspired by quarantine life and the creative artists who have found new ways to tell their stories. Essentially this film is a video call between two characters. This s a format that would not have been taken seriously prior to the pandemic, but now it has become the status quo for many indie filmmakers.

The movie opens with a nifty title sequence that made me first think I might be watching an animated movie or a video game-inspired approach. From there it goes into a scroll that reveals that Perpetual Anamnesis is Chapter 8 of something called The Magnate Journal, revealing that “The Magnate have been immune to all Earth-based biological sickness and disease but only a handful have been able to integrate human emotions successfully without becoming self-destructive,” setting the viewer up for a sci-fi take on Covid reality.

Going from the title sequence, to the science fiction-themed scroll, to a video call is a bit jarring and makes us unsure what to expect from Perpetual Anamnesis.

While Doz and Izmira catch up with one another from a distance, we realize that they are in a pandemic-type circumstance. As the two engage in conversation, we are first hit with mundane day-to-day conversation, but as the conversation unfolds, we realize there is something else to the story – something else that is occurring, or has already occurred.

The conversation ends on a positive note, but leaves us with a sense of despair, knowing there is more. That’s when Doz and his mother have a video call of their own. Additional information is revealed about Doz and Izmira, and many underlying questions about the Magnate are answered as well.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “anamnesis” as the remembering of things from a supposed previous existence, which may not make sense initially, but brings us full circle by the end of the story.

While the background of the story is that of the Magnate, with a science fiction theme, the driving force is the relationship between Doz and Ismira, and the mystery of their reality that is slowly revealed.

Villapaz gives us a barebones production style, with static camera shots and natural lighting. While this approach may not always work, it works here, giving the actors room to breathe and become the characters they embody, allowing us to fully take in and experience their journey.

Ed’s Grade: B