Writer/director Philipp Yuryev’s Russian short Tale of the Deaf is one of the most visually extraordinary films of this year. Shot in sumptuous black-and-white by director of photography Mikhail Kasaya, this gothic chiller is a diabolical delight.
A deaf man (Russian rapper Husky) tries to entertain a tavern full of paupers with shadow play but receives a decidedly unkind reception. A mysterious organ grinder (Anton Adasinsky) enters the place, pet lizard in tow, and proceeds to play a song that makes the clientele hallucinate grandiose visions. The deaf man remains unaffected by the music as the situation for the patrons grows increasingly worse.
Yuryev sets the film in an unspecified past, but one that would fit in well with the past imagined by Edgar Allan Poe in such stories as “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” The set decoration and costume design range from squalid to elegant, with Yuryev framing the proceedings in breathtaking shots.
Adasinksy and Husky are both terrific in their lead roles, in what is basically a silent film with neither dialogue nor interstitial title cards. Their facial expressions and body movements forward the story in a wonderful example of pure cinema. The cast members who play the tavern goers — many who are first-time actors — also turn in fine work.
Yuryev’s Tale of the Deaf is a hypnotic, grand work that recalls the macabre horror of yesteryear. It is a cinematic achievement that fear-fare fans should consider required viewing.(4.5 / 5)
Tale of the Deaf screens as part of SLASH Film Festival, which runs in Vienna, Austria, from September 23–October 3, 2021.
The short is also available to watch online below.