Imaginary Fiend, Directed by Diana Galimzyanova
With a mysterious red telephone in his small, dark apartment, an unnamed young man answers a mysterious call from someone offering a unique service. We hear only one side of the conversation, the side of the man in his apartment: ‘Yes, I’m interested in your offer. No, I can’t come to your office. I don’t leave the house… No, I don’t need an imaginary friend. I need an imaginary… enemy’.
It seems that the client’s demands are approved and completed immediately, and the new imaginary fiend appears (seemingly from nowhere) inside the boy’s apartment. Is the imaginary friend agency that he calls real, or it is also imaginary? The whole story takes on a fantastical approach, such that it becomes possible that the entire story takes place within the man’s mind — personified, perhaps by the apartment itself. ‘I have to be your enemy but I don’t know how to start. What would you do?’ asks the new imaginary fiend to his new client.
‘I’d kill my enemy’, is his dark response.
But there is a hitch to this piece of advice, which the young man hastily points out to his new imaginary interlocutor: ‘If you killed me you’d disappear. You’d vanish the same moment I’d die and stop imagining you’.
The two boys, one real and the other imaginary, don’t frequently make eye contact, but they do discuss the life that the real boy has made for himself. He lives a strange and isolated life, never leaving his apartment and never even opening windows for ventilation. When the imaginary fiend observes that ‘I think there is not enough air in here’, his imaginer retorts, ‘Air is the root of Evil’. When his fiend asks how long he has been living in such strange isolation, he says it started ‘once I decided that human kind doesn’t exist to me anymore’.
Despite the young man’s obsession with isolation, sounds from the outside world still enter the apartment through the walls, doors, and windows. His neighbours host parties with thumping electronic music. His landlord even stops by for a visit a couple of times — she’s never allowed in, but she rings the doorbell unceasingly and yells through the door about needing to collect a much overdue rent cheque: ‘Open the door, I know you’re there! You haven’t been paying your rent for a year!’ She threatens to cut off the electricity supply if he continues to refuse to pay his rent — and in the end, she follows through on her threat. The apartment becomes not just silent, but also shrouded in darkness.
‘So is it always so noisy in here?’ asks the imaginary young man.
‘Noise what noise? I hear nothing’, responds the real one, covering his ears.
According to the film’s description, the purpose of the film is to depict the experience of Aspergers. Unfortunately, the film is not entirely successful in this respect, as the main character — the real one — seems to more closely resemble a psychopath. The sensory overwhelm, especially when it comes to noise and the outside world, is instructive, but other aspects of his dark personality and bizarre behaviour are less easy to decipher and comprehend as meaningful to this intended end. His thoughts, which he expresses to his imaginary friend, are destructive. He isolates himself from the world and neglects his responsibilities and hates other human beings.
The story is highly symbolic — a long metaphor for experience. The apartment, closed off from the world in every way possible although the noise gets in anyway, serves as a psyche which cannot, despite best efforts, separate itself from others. He may choose whether or not to open the door to his landlady, for instance, but she controls whether his lights stay on or off. It’s not a pleasant film to watch, and the interactions between characters are stilted and uncomfortable. The meaning of the film is unclear, but interesting overall as a metaphor; just not the metaphor it intends to be. If it intends to show Aspergers, it is not a sympathetic picture, but a disturbing one, a film that paints the experience as something bordering on psychosis rather than a natural variation of human beings, with its own challenges and its own benefits. ■
Runtime: 9 minutes
Genre: Dramatic Short
Find out more
Find out more about this film and independent Russian filmmaker Diana Galimzyanova on the pages for Imaginary Fiend and Diana Galimzyanova in the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Follow the filmmaker on Twitter at @digalimzyanova.
This critical review was commissioned and sponsored by the filmmaker.
Featured Image: A young man and his imaginary companion in ‘Imaginary Fiend’.