Black Swell is a Dark Tide of Anguish

Short of the Day

Richard Kind stars in a short film with a devastating twist.

Just a warning, this isn’t going to be an upbeat write-up, but hell, it’s Monday, who was in a good mood anyway?

Motels (and hotels) and suicide go together like motels and illicit sex. For more than a century it’s been an acknowledged fact that motels are a hotbed for people wanting to kill themselves, in part because of the privacy, in part because of the lack of loved ones around to prevent their actions, in part because of the neutral location that won’t blind them with nostalgia or inflict an unnecessary mess in the home, and in part because in all likelihood it won’t be a loved one who discovers their body. It’s such a prevalent occurrence, in fact, that every major motel chain in the country has a policy regarding on-premises suicides, both of the private and public variety (there’s a reason those windows don’t open, after all.)

In the short film Black Swell from writer/producer/actor David Rysdahl and director Jake Honig, Richard Kind (Inside Out, A Serious Man) stars as a middle-aged teacher who checks into a motel with the intention of killing himself by gunshot. As he is composing himself for the final deed, the guest in the next room starts to play some very loud heavy metal. No one wants to go out like that, so Kind goes next door to ask the guest if they wouldn’t mind turning down the music, only to discover said guest is one of his former students (Rysdahl). The student imposes himself on Kind when all the man really wants, obviously, is to be left alone. What happens from there is all spoilers, but I’ll tell you what, it’s a twist that’ll make you gasp out loud, so if you’re in a coffee shop or on the train or whatever, you’ve been warned.

When all is said and done, you’ll realize this could have been an almost exploitative film, but in Rysdahl and Honig’s hands, as well as Rysdahl and Kind’s, it becomes something oddly more sensitive than you’d think, something painfully human and achingly sincere. There’s no wonder why it’s been an official selection at a dozen or more film festivals: Black Swell is beautiful the way only dark things can be, that is, simultaneously beautiful and broken, and tenderly tragic.

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