The Man Who Fed His Shadow, Directed by Mario Garefo
The man who feeds his shadow is a magician who, at the invitation of dinner party hosts, puts his tricks on display for their amusement. At one such well-attended dinner party, well-dressed socialites fill the seats of a long table in an opulent Greek dining room. Flames from candelabra illuminate a feast of delicacies, including a whole roasted pig. When the magician (played by Dimitris Imellos) appears at the head of the table, they are skeptical. His performance is no trick, he insists, but rather ‘a phenomenon that science has not yet explained’, the cumulation of ‘all my studies to achieve the independence of my shadow’. Some of the guests are frightened at the prospect that there might be real magic afoot. One guest confides to her neighbour at the dinner table, ‘I don’t like magic’.
‘Are you afraid?’ he asks.
‘I just don’t like it!’
The men express their skepticism, claiming to be unimpressed. Still, everyone jumps with fright at the magician’s sudden movements.
The magician raises a curtain behind him. With his hands, he casts shadows onto it, mimicking the movement and behaviour of animals: first an eagle, then a swan. But the guests are not amused. One of the men stands up and makes his own shadow puppet — putting his hands together to make a dog. What makes the magician’s shadows so special if anyone can make them? But unlike the shadow animals, the shadow of the magician himself ‘has its own human needs’.
At the snap of the magician’s fingers, she appears on the curtain: a shadow of a beautiful woman, twirling in circles. She moves of her own accord, unattached to any form in the room. This, apparently, is the magician’s shadow, which through study he claims to have freed from his own body. She twirls independent of his movements, and she has her own human needs — even her own appetite. To prove it, he encourages the guests to present delicacies from their plates for her to eat. First, someone offers his chicken leg — ‘it’s delicious’, he says jokingly. The magician extends his arm to the curtain, chicken leg in hand, and behold: his shadow takes it. She eats it. The guests present more offerings, a sampling of everything on display at the table. One woman even offers her smouldering cigarette, which the shadow accepts, contentedly puffing shadows of smoke. The magician’s audience is amazed by his insatiable, autonomous shadow. She devours the feast before their eyes.
Before long, though, the host (played by the late Mihalis Giannatos, of Midnight Express and Munich) gets upset by how out of hand his party is getting. His food is disappearing, and as if that weren’t enough, this shadow trickster is getting a little too close to his wife. From the staircase of his enormous townhouse, he kicks him out to the street: ‘Get the hell out of here!’
As he takes his leave, the magician delivers a serious message. ‘I know that such a mysterious task breeds suspicion and doubt. The time will come when all my studies to achieve the independence of my shadow will be recognised and rewarded’. He folds up his white magician’s glove and disappears into the night.
From the party he visits his wife (played by Maria Kitsou) at a small, sleepy pub where she performs happy songs to a sparse crowd. She looks beautiful onstage, but out of the audience’s view she is deeply unhappy. There are parts of the magician’s life that he keeps hidden away from almost everyone. The film is adapted from a work of the same name by the Argentine writer Leónidas Barletta, and it frequently surprises. Each detail is symbolic, though the film’s deeper meaning is elusive at first. Distinctions between shadows and reality, darkness and light, symbolise the magician’s own life. In more than one way, feeding his shadow becomes a subversive act. The effect is subtle but powerful, and excellently executed.
The sometimes experimental, always professional camerawork (by Thodoros Mihopoulos, of Before Midnight and El Greco) matches the ambience of the story, merging with the energy of the party and leaving just enough mystery outside the frame. The sound and music (sound editing by Kenan Akkawi; music by Christos Serenes) evoke a mid-century aura of scratchy, textured phonorecords. The production design (by Assi Dimitroulopoulou, of No Sympathy for the Devil) is stunning, from the magnificent aristocratic interior of the Greek townhouse to the sad pub where the magician visits his wife, and even to the grungy underground world beside the harbour where the magician does secretive work after the sun goes down. The abundance of subtle details against the backdrop of such professional production will make you want to watch this short film again and again. ■
Runtime: 18 minutes
Genre: Dramatic Short
Language: Modern Greek
This film was selected for the 2016 Atlas Awards Official Selection.
Find out more
Find out more about this film and the filmmaker on the pages for The Man Who Fed His Shadow and Mario Garefo in the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and the film’s page on Facebook. The Man Who Fed His Shadow (O anthropos pou taize ton iskio tou) has been officially-selected at 140 festivals (including at Raindance, at which it was nominated in the category of Best International Short), has received 32 awards, and has qualified for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. The film’s director and writer, Mario Garefo, studied film in Rome and Athens. His work includes the films Filoxenia and Difficult Loves as well as a novel, The Unvaccinated.
Watch the trailer for The Man Who Fed His Shadow:
This critical review was commissioned and sponsored by the filmmaker.
Featured Image: Dinner guests stare attentively at the magician’s tricks in ‘The Man Who Fed His Shadow’, directed by Mario Garefo. Filiki Eteria.