The Job movie review: Short film starring Kalki Koechlin is an intriguing exercise in psychological horror

Prahlad Srihari

June 17, 2018 13:26:44 IST

Every morning, the alarm rings. You compel your unwilling mind to get out of bed and somehow drag yourself to work. You soon go on autopilot, plugging away at mindnumbing tasks with the help of regular doses of caffeinated goodness. And you tell yourself, "Whatever helps pay the bills!"

But, if you're living with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), the daily grind becomes a crippling marathon of anxiety. After a while, the anxiety becomes so overwhelming you can't differentiate between reality and delirium. Siddharth Sinha’s latest short film The Job, starring Kalki Koechlin, captures this dissolving sense of reality caused by the uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts induced by OCD. Framed against the modern metropolis that is Mumbai, the film finds Sinha breaking Bard as he explores how a neurotic expat's mental health is further exacerbated by innate human feelings of isolation and urban alienation.

Kalki Koechlin in a still from The Job

Kalki Koechlin in The Job

In the movie, Kalki plays a French expat working as a translator in a typical corporate set-up with harrowing deadlines, overbearing bosses and prison cell-sized cubicles. It opens with a shot of her vigorously washing her hands hoping to clear her conscience. This elaborate and compulsive hand-washing ritual seems more symbolic (à la Lady Macbeth) than practical. But this cleansing only temporarily alleviates her obsessive thought spirals about some possible moral transgression.

Is it a result of resentment towards her ailing mother, hostility towards her stern boss or the stress caused by her swelling credit card debt? Or is it caused by the post-traumatic stress in the aftermath of her involvement in a hit-and-run accident?

It is all unclear as the director intentionally chooses to leave the film open-ended. Sinha uses a non-linear, unreliable narrative that serves no other purpose but to subvert the plot and audience's point of view. The story and the heft of the conflict is placed upon a single protagonist who is seemingly all alone and doesn't utter a single word throughout the film. In contrast, The Job's only dialogue come from the boss and the mother, who we never see in the film.

The director exploits our inability to distinguish the internal diegetic sounds (which exist only inside of a character’s mind) from the external (which comes from a physical source in the scene). During her first meeting with the boss, he is deliberately not shown in the frame. The second time around, we hear his voice but a misleading shot of an empty chair makes us wonder if it's all just an illusion. The same goes for her mother and her pet cat.

A still from the movie.

A still from the movie.

The Job shows how OCD can make you uncertain about what you think, see, hear or touch. It can even make you believe you have accidentally killed or injured a pedestrian while driving a car. It also shows how the association between morality and physical cleansing — or immorality and impurity — is particularly pronounced among those who suffer from the illness.

Though Sinha showcases his visual panache with organised framing and some inventive shots, his stylistic flourishes betray his ambitions to tell a polished, meaningful story. The Job really is more a psychological horror — than thriller — film as it attempts to skew both the protagonist and audience's perception of reality. Kalki's emotional instability creates a similar state of mind in the audience as even we begin to question what is real and what is a figment of her imagination.

The film's creeping and bewildering dread is enhanced by a minimalist score that teases the arrival of a denouement which unfortunately never comes. It's a mental puzzle — more Königsberg than Rubik — that is meant to keep the viewer forever guessing but only, we're not sure it's worth scratching your head over.

Watch the short film below:

Updated Date: Jun 17, 2018 13:52 PM