Review by James Lindorf
Director Richard Raymond’s Souls of Totality was filmed during the 2017 solar eclipse near Bend, Oregon. This intense short film stars EMMY winner Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) and Tom Cullen (Downtown Abbey). After a successful New York premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, it recently won the Grand Jury Prize at Hollyshorts. The film is continuing its festival run, currently showing at the Raindance Film Festival, and preparing for possible BIFA, BAFTA and Oscar nominations.
Lady 18 (Maslany) and Guy 3 (Cullen) are members of The Souls of Totality, a cult that believes if they die during a Solar Eclipse, their souls will be taken to paradise. They are also in love, sneaking away from the group for private moments as they prepare for their ascension when the eclipse’s zone of totality washes over them.
Raymond throws the viewer right into the story, no names, no explanations, just a couple in the back of the bus discussing things they do and do not like. Lady 18 has detached herself from the world and can’t wait to leave behind a life of selfies, white guys with dreads, and her parents. We learn nothing about her past or how she found herself a part of this cult, unlike Guy 3, who grew up in the cult and has been waiting for this moment his entire life. When a new challenge arises to test their love and their faith, the pair must decide what is most important to them.
Jarin Blaschke (The Witch) was the film’s cinematographer, and he filled the screen with natural light, almost to the point of washing it out at times. It all serves to contrast with the film’s most impressive element, a five-minute single-take sequence shot during the eclipse, a first in cinema history. 0
With a 19-minute runtime, including credits, there isn’t a lot of time to develop the story, but the chemistry between Maslany and Cullen makes up for that because you buy them as a couple and you believe in their struggle. I would be happy to see this turned into a feature-length film and to learn more about Lady 18’s background. I’d also want see more of them as a couple, but it would be a lot of work to live up to the beauty and intensity of the existing film.