A powerful amalgam of styles and genres, The Eve, winner of multiple awards, masterfully blends thriller, fantasy, and drama all in an experimental short film released in 2015. Luca Machnich, the director of the film, asserts in an interview with the International Film Festival that the film is based on a horror tale written by Nicola Lombardi, a friend of his. Luca Machnich Palmerini is a grandnephew of Anton Machnich, one of the movie pioneers in Italy, who opened the first movie theatres in Italy, Romania, and Ireland.
Set on a Christmas Eve, the short thriller dramatizes the story of the long-awaited encounter of Simon, the eight-year old boy of an opulent family, with Santa Claus. Living in isolation in a big luxurious mansion with his parents, Simon seems to have everything a child can long for, yet he is deeply dejected, lonely and weary of the materialistic world. His greatest wish is to meet Santa Claus and ask him to take him away from this soulless world and the meanness of adults to his fairyland toy factory along with other lonely children. At the same time, his parents are embroiled in an argument about letting Simon in on a dark family secret or not while wrapping his numerous Christmas presents. Both Simon and his mother try to disentangle themselves from the difficult situation they are in by writing to Santa in their own ways. Santa does pay the family a visit and spends some time with Simon, but the course of events takes an unexpected turn.
Although it is quite difficult to neatly categorize The Eve, the opening credits’ intelligent reference to Max Luscher, the Swiss psychotherapist makes it clear from the very beginning that the viewer is going to get involved in a psychological thriller packed with symbols. The dazzling title sequence, heightened by strong music, provides a gateway to the universe of the film, and successfully establishes the setting and tone. Fast-paced scenes of vast and highly modern shopping centers teeming with people hurrying around in a frenzy interrupted by images of Christmas sales and ornaments are indicative of the senseless materialistic world The Eve is going to depict.
The box of Christmas ornaments spilled by Simon is an ominous augury for the dark secret that is going to be revealed later in the film, and crush Simon’s hopes for living in the fairyland toy factory which resembles Peter Pan’s Neverland to escape the cruelty of adults’ world that violates the innocence and purity of children’s world. But Simon has no other choice than growing up and facing this world. While Christmas Eve is supposed to be joyful and exuberant, the huge mansion, overlooked by a bell tower, is all isolated and silent. The bell tower, according to Muchnich, symbolizes “waiting for another future”. As a child, for Simon, the future means leaving the innocence, purity, and fantasy of childhood behind, and having a share of the dark secrets and sinister complexities of the adult world, a kind of disenchantment, that happens when the clock strikes midnight and the harsh reality slaps everyone in the face. Simon’s imaginary inner world of dreams and hallucinations, as an inherent quality of childhood, is beautifully portrayed by Machnich’s clever use of animation, providing an opportunity for the viewers to journey through Simon’s mind where reality, dream and hallucination merge.
In order to develop and establish the macabre, gruesome, and melancholy overall atmosphere, the film substantially benefits from incisive dialogues and breathtaking cinematography that are further amplified by the music and the symbolic use of colors. The most pervasive color is red which represents blood and, creating a grim sense of foreboding, adds to the tension. The red gift boxes and ribbons are the bearers of the dark family secret, and even Santa’s red clothes are disguising a grisly truth.
Simon’s family can also be regarded as a microcosm of the whole society where citizens are the top priority of the government as long as they are obedient and do what they are told without raising any questions or doubting the illusions they are living under like the illusion that they are free to construct their own identities. Simon’s father says that they allow Simon to have his own identity and do not impose anything on him, but it is actually he who decides what Simon needs to know, and when the secret should be revealed to him.
Luca Machnich expresses in his statement about the film The Eve is a story that “echoes the style of the great American thriller writer Robert Bloch (whose novel "Psycho" was filmed by Hitchcock) in its macabre irony, of Dino Buzzati, the most important Italian fantasy writer in its longing for the transcendent and the desperate waiting for an opportunity of redemption from a tragic life, and of the great American fantasy fiction writer Henry James in its interior monologues and in the psychological narration of the leading characters.” It truly furnishes the checklist, and is definitely a worthwhile watch, not only once, but several times.