A Walk In Hyde Park
Expected Rating: PG for some foul language
Budget: 23,000 AUD (Approx. $24,000 USD)
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Running Time: 105 minutes
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Critique Issue: #82 (12/12)
Critiqued By: Monika DeLeeuw-Taylor
Final Score: 6.8
Sachen (Anmol Mishra) lives in Sydney, Australia, and works at an antique store. One day, his car runs out of oil and he happens to run into a damsel in distress – Elisa (Susanna Richter), a German immigrant. She had just been kicked out of her apartment and was sitting outside crying. Sachen offers her comfort, and soon this unlikely meeting evolves into a relationship.
This film is meant to be a Fred Astaire-esque love story. There is also other added romantic interest with two other couples. Sachen’s friend John, a gymnast, is engaged to Elisa’s friend and fellow dancer Alex; the fact that they are a gay couple adds a modern twist to what could have felt like an older style film. Also, there is great chemistry
between Sachen’s two co-workers. Lily, the Asian shop owner, who is about as approachable as a cobra, and George, an older man who pretends to be a player, but obviously carries a torch for the abrasive Lilly. Their interactions, and eventual coupling (especially the scene in Lily’s bathroom where they start kissing!), adds a great old-time romantic comedy element to the movie.
There were however, quite a few logic holes to the story, and it took me a while to figure out the structure of the story and all the characters. The film starts out with Elisa and Sachen meeting each other at a fountain, then cuts back to before they first met. It took me a while to figure out that this fountain scene – which is interspersed throughout the film – is actually the very last scene. That is a good convention to tie all the relationships together, but there needs to be some way to set it apart from the rest of the movie. Some simple methods would be making this scene black and white, using a flash cut at the beginning and end of each section of this scene, and subtitles at the next scene after. Yes, these are all movie conventions, and pretty cliched ones, at that. However, they are conventions that any audience will recognize, and at that point they can focus on watching the characters instead of trying to figure out the story.
One thing interspersed throughout the film are several dance numbers – mostly between Sachen and Elisa, but there is also one with Alex and Elisa. These are all visually beautiful (more on that later), and help enhance the film’s chosen genre. The dances between Sachen and Elisa are clearly allegorical, as it’s established pretty early on that Sachen has two left feet. But I really wanted to see was a series of dances between the other characters. These dances are wonderfully choreographed, and also serve to show the relationship between the characters without using words. It’s almost an homage to silent movies and this is a really great idea. However, there are other relationships throughout the movie – John and Alex dancing together would be a lot of fun to choreograph, plus George and Lily’s awkward interactions could be shown with a silly dance early on, and their developed relationship would be very well portrayed with some sort of affectionate ballroom dance.
With the way the film is put together, there are several logic holes throughout. The question of where Elisa lives after meeting Sachen is never really explained – it’s implied that she moves in with Sachen, but never really confirmed. There was also some mention of Elisa’s visa expiring soon, but it is done so in very much a throw-away manner – Sachen just casually mentions it. This is a really big plot point – Sachen has apparently been contemplating marrying Elisa, which he would certainly have to do if he wants her to stay in Australia. There’s also an opening for Elisa to be devious on her part – if she wants to stay, she might use this as a way to pressure Sachen to marry her. But this whole plot point is just ignored. Even if it won’t end up being very important to the story, it needs to be cleared up, since most people will assume that Elisa might try to use this fact as a way to push Sachen into marriage, since this is a common plot for many stories.
Warning! Spoilers Ahead!
Later on, there’s a scene where Sachen gets John drunk, gets him to spill about other men he finds attractive. Then after John leaves, Sachen calls Alex and says that John has been cheating on him. While John had made fun of Sachen several time for his inability to dance or do gymnastics, that doesn’t seem like a big enough reason for Sachen to want to sabotage his relationship. Sachen does refer to John with a slur for homosexual, but again, up until that point Sachen seemed like a really nice guy with no reason at all to hate John. In the ending, of course, Sachen’s actions backfire on him, which he certainly deserves, but I still think that his motivations need to be much clearer.
I think one of the reasons for so many logic holes is because much of the dialogue appears to be improvised. Also, since many of the actors are primarily dancers, I think the dialogue suffers from this. Even an actor who is very gifted at improvisation can only keep going for a few minutes, so your average non-actor just can’t keep it believable. I know it’s difficult to write a script, but it is an essential part of the movie. And once you have a finished script that you’re happy with, only then you can make the decision to go off of it. Going off script also makes editing very difficult. Frank Oz, in his film ‘The Score’ had actors Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, and Edward Norton improvise occasionally, but he had to set up two cameras for each scene in order to keep continuity for editing. Besides, these three men were veteran actors, and knew when to improvise and when not to. Even so, while watching the movie, one can still somewhat tell when they’re going off script.
This movie really is an absolute visual treat. There are many instances throughout where the images could easily have been ruined by the location, but instead the lighting was perfect! There were several outdoor nighttime shots – one that was in front of a pool of water with a large lit building in the background, and yet both actors in the foreground were perfectly lit, even though they were both wearing white. There were many indoor locations where the building appeared to be lit with florescent lights, which can really mess with coloring, but every scene looked great. The scenes with Elisa and Sachen had to have been challenging to light, as her skin is very pale and his is dark, but each instance of them together was very well-lit.
My favorite scene, by far, was one where Elisa was dancing on a stage in an empty theater with Alex. The only light in the whole scene was a red backlight behind the dancers, which turned them into partially-lit silhouettes. Not only did this highlight the dance itself and their movements, but it was just such a beautiful scene. This film had a wonderful variety of moving camera and unique angle shots. There were many moving steadicam shots and long pans, plus a really amazing tracking shot of one of the characters on a bike – and he was pedaling really quickly! There were some great slow and fast motion shots, and a lot of the moving shots added interest to usually boring scenes. For instance, in one scene where Alex and his boyfriend John are talking in a coffee shop, the camera keeps moving back and forth between the two of them, and half of the time focuses on their hands, such as when Alex leans over and pats John’s knee, or when they briefly hold hands. In fact, the dialogue in this scene was almost secondary – I guessed they were a couple simply from the way the camera interacted with them, as opposed to what they were saying to each other.
I only noticed a few visual problems. The biggest one was in a scene where John is complaining about Sachen’s lack of coordination as a gymnast and later fights with him. This scene takes place at a gym where the floors are covered with mats, and every time the men tussle, the camera shakes. In this case, it looks like a mistake, since the camera doesn’t shake throughout the whole fight. So the camera should have been put on a tripod on solid ground and not a mat.
While the above category was almost perfect, I was very disappointed in the film’s audio. Much of it was due to the sound of the dialogue. So much of it sounds very tinny, which makes me suspect that there was either something wrong with the microphone, or it was just not set to record correctly. There are also many scenes where one character sounds so much louder than the others, as though the microphone placement was wrong. One scene in which this really stands out is toward the end of the movie where Sachen comes to work and meets an American girl standing out front of the building, who wants to know about a sale. Her voice is very loud, where as Sachen is almost barely audible. When George and Lily show up, the exchange between them is the most important part of the scene, but they are drowned out by the American’s very loud dialogue. There were many other instances of audio problems that seemed to be due to the location. One was at John’s gym – which is usually a very echoy location, but with all the mats in the room, could have been made less so. Also, when Elisa is being kicked out of her apartment, her and the landlady are standing in a hallway with tile floors and a high ceiling and their dialogue is overshadowed by echo. This could have been diminished by just adding a rug over the tile, as well as paintings on the walls. The rest of the tinny dialogue doesn’t doom the film – one could go the route of ADR (which we covered in a past article: http://www.microfilmmaker.com/tipstrick/Issue15/BasicADR.html), or there are several software options available that could help to clean up the audio as well. One of these options is Music & Speech Cleaner, which is available from iZotope for only $39. This is definitely money well-spent for any microfilmmaker!
There were also many scenes in which he background overpowered the dialogue. From too much noise in a coffee shop or gym, to loud birds, to traffic and fountains. My suspicion is that a lot of this sound was added later for atmosphere, but just wasn’t mixed properly. Dialogue should normally be mixed at -12 dB, while sound effects should be at -6 dB and music at -18 dB. I think that the music was mixed correctly, as it didn’t conflict with the dialogue at all, but the background noise did.
And speaking of the music, it was the big redeeming feature of this film’s audio. There were all kinds of wonderful orchestral and solo instrumental pieces, as well as easily recognizable classical pieces. And these pieces weren’t just thrown in either, they were very carefully placed to complement the action on screen. For instance, Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” is played during a fast-motion drinking sequence, and Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” at an instance where one character betrays another.
This film’s 23,000 AUD (approximately 24,000 USD), was spent on equipment (5,000), actors (6,000), costumes (2,000), production crew (4,000), site rental (1,000), and music rights and audio production (5,000). Which this might seem like a lot of money – and I’m sure it does to whoever was writing the checks – this is actually quite the bargain for the musical, which usually hit ‘Titanic’ proportions in terms of budget. I think that any money put toward the movie’s visuals was very well spent, as the film looks great. Also, the soundtrack is a perfect enhancement to the tone, and especially the dance numbers. My biggest issue is still the editing and the audio – both of which possibly could still be fixed. The director did mention that the version I watched needed final audio sweetening, but I still suspect that some ADR might be necessary to fix a lot of the audio problems.
‘A Walk In Hyde Park’ is visually amazing, but the film suffers from all the audio problems. The classical soundtrack is an exception to this, but with attention to ADR and/or proper mixing of sound effects, this film could be really good. The only other issue is the confusing nature of the way the story was put together. In my opinion, it still needs some creative re-editing and possibly even voice-overs to keep the audience focused on the story and not keep them out of it.
Closing Thoughts:A Fred Astaire-style romance is a rare thing. Most films these days that fall into the genre of romantic comedy have to resort to cheap laughs and lowbrow gimmicks, but there’s certainly something to be said for real romance, especially one expressed in the beauty of dance. ‘A Walk In Hyde Park’ took this concept, modernized it, and added clever flair and style. Once this film is finally ready, it will be a real winner.
Use of Audio
Use of Budget
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