Year: 2013
Director: Tyron Lanse van Vuuren
Starring: Stiaan Smith
Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

WARNING: This review may contain some spoilers

I was lucky enough to be present at the opening night of IndieFlicks Manchester – an international short film screening – hosted in the wonderfully weird Ziferblat cafe, hidden away on a Mancunian backstreet. With this being the first (hopefully of many), monthly screenings, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After watching a diverse mix of ten short-shorts, it was time for the Directors’ Choice Award – the film deemed to be the piece de resistance of the over 1300 applicants. I was expecting great things from South African director Tyron Janse van Vuuren and the award-winning ‘Preparation’.

Part of what made this short film so enjoyable for me personally, was the element of surprise, so you may want to avoid this plot summary if you’re looking for the same experience. That said, I believe the film would still fascinate those who don’t want to be left in the dark. As you may have guessed from the featured image that got you here, ‘Preparation’ is loosely based on Heath Ledger and his methods of preparing for the role of the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’. We follow Kingsley Bell (Stiaan Smith), the copyright friendly version of the late Heath Ledger, locked away in a New York hotel room. In his self-inflicted isolation, Kingsley goes a little crazy trying to perfect the dialogue, voice and look of his upcoming character. Under pressure from the outside world to deliver in this iconic role, Kingsley finally cracks it with the help of his overly critical ventriloquist puppet.

There is just one man’s acting credentials to discuss for this one. Stiaan Smith, the guy playing the counterfeit Heath Ledger, does have a certain brooding and intense quality about him. Not to mention the fact he looks the part. As he gradually begins to to get to grips with the role of ‘The Jester’ (damn copyright laws!), Stiaan becomes more and more intriguing and by the end, delivers a performance of exceptional quality. 

Personally I’m always rather fascinated by films which isolate themselves in one location. Better still, to go for the soliloquy concept and focus on just the one actor and character (think ‘Locke’). ‘Preparation’ is the perfect example of this; no distractions, no gimmicks, just one man going mad in his hotel room. The film is shot really well, with lots of enigmatic imagery and tense moments, which make for a thrilling 30 minutes of drama. I didn’t have the luxury of seeing any artwork or prior knowledge, so I was rather taken aback when Kingsley applied the iconic makeup and I finally realised what all that talk of corruption and villainy was leading to. Even knowing this now, I genuinely feel like the twists and shock factor would be just as effective were I to watch ‘Preparation’ again.

Altogether, this is a really accomplished production from director Tyron Lanse van Vuuren and his team. As a huge Batman fan, the Joker references probably helped me on my way to forming a connection to the film, but that shouldn’t negate any of the praise I’ve heaped on this film. For a short film of approximately 30 minutes to draw me in, keep my full attention and keep me thrilled from start to finish is quite the achievement. Whether you’re a fan of ‘The Dark Knight’ or not, I highly recommend you hunt down this film and devote some time to enjoying a top quality independent project.