Two new films about unusual romantic liaisons arrive at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center this weekend. “Everyone’s Going to Die” tracks the chance encounter of two lonely souls in an English coastal town, while an eccentric art auctioneer pursues a much younger heiress in “The Best Offer.”
Playing one night in a sneak peek on Thursday, March 6, “Everyone’s Going to Die” is part of the Manhattan Short Film Festival’s second annual Feature Film Project. Viewers will join audiences in 100 theaters around the country to vote on whether the film should earn a broader theatrical release.
Despite its misleadingly ominous title, “Everyone’s Going to Die” is an absurdist comedy in which Melanie, played by Nora Tschirner, strikes up a conversation with Ray, played by Rob Knighton, in a Folkestone café after he helps her pay for her coffee. It’s an unlikely match, but their conversation continues throughout the day as they each meander through the quotidian events in their lives. Melanie babysits for her fiancé’s niece, while Ray visits the estranged family of his brother, who has recently died.
Little by little, the viewer watches these characters develop through their random connections to each other. German-born Melanie, who has a habit of drifting through life without sustaining a connection to work or friends, is ambivalent about her engagement to Richard, a man the audience never meets. Ray turns out to be a gangster who grew up in Folkestone and is combining his visit to his brother’s family with the vaguely defined capture of another crook.
We discover the rationale for the film’s title when Ray and Melanie visit Ray’s relatives, and his niece Laura produces a skit called “Everyone’s Going to Die.” Directed by the collective duo called Jones, this oddball movie depends for its success on the audience’s appreciation of its wry, understated humor.
Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore’s romantic mystery “The Best Offer” has an easier-to-follow, more traditional line of narrative development. Art auctioneer Virgil Oldman, played by Geoffrey Rush, is an elegant bachelor whose meticulousness verges on obsessive compulsive disorder. He wears gloves to avoid touching other people and refuses to eat a dessert specially prepared for his birthday because the event won’t occur until the next day. In cahoots with his friend, the would-be artist Billy played by Donald Sutherland, Virgil has fixed auctions to acquire an invaluable collection of female portraits that he keeps locked in a secret room in his luxurious hotel apartment. Fascinated by but afraid of women, he has substituted these portraits for real-life connections with them.
Once Claire (Sylvia Hoeks), an elusive and agoraphobic young heiress who hires him to catalogue and auction the art and antiques she has inherited, enters his life, he becomes obsessed with meeting her face-to-face. Eventually he hides out in the villa Claire has inherited from her parents so he can spy on her. He is also intrigued by the gears and metal pieces of an 18th century automaton that he finds scattered about the villa. His young friend and colleague Robert, played by Jim Sturgess, gradually pieces together the mechanical man, and gives the smitten Virgil advice on how to court Claire. A bizarre midget, who seems to reside in a café opposite Claire’s villa, plays an unexpectedly key role in the plot.
Although the dramatic twists and turns of “The Best Offer” don’t ultimately bear close analysis, Mr. Rush’s compelling performance will keep the viewer engaged, as will the stunning cinematography by Fabio Zamarion and music by Ennio Morricone. Mr. Tornatore’s “Cinema Paradiso” won the 1990 Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film. With “The Best Offer,” he has produced a stylish and entertaining romantic mystery.
Manhattan Shorts Feature Film Project, “Everyone’s Going to Die,” Thursday, March 3, 7:30 pm; “The Best Offer,” Friday, March 7, and Saturday, March 8, 7:30 pm, M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven. $12; $9 M.V Film Society members; $7 ages 14 and under. For tickets and information, visit mvfilmsociety.com.