Rob Hurtt – A Look At The Career Of The British Director

Home Is Where The Hurtt Is- Anca I Niţulescu


In The Culture Show in 2011, David Lynch referred to the fact that he is drawn to the idea of “curtains opening because they often hide something” and because it is as if we go into another world. Having recently watched British filmmaker Rob Hurtt’s short films I could not help but notice that he too explores the notions of secrecy, fantasy and of another world Lynch spoke about.

Intertwining past with present, dreams with memories, fantasies with anxieties, the short I Remember April (2011) is about Dougie (Eric Colvin) who visits his friend’s shop around Christmas time. As we watch Dougie recounting his life, there is little doubt that his narrative is unconvincing and his body language awkward. And yet, at no other time does it feel stranger than when he looks straight at the camera as if directly addressing us. It is in these unexpected moments of eye contact that he no longer appears as an unpleasant visitor who talks too much but a lonely person we can sympathise with.

Perhaps the crucial point in the film is not Dougie’s dark confession towards the end but the fleeting moments when his inner thoughts and emotions are truly revealed. To echo Screen‘s review, it is the visceral undertone of Dougie’s character that make him most intriguing to watch. I Remember April sensitively explores both the character’s emotions and the viewers’ response, leaving us to reflect on the character’s mixture of both the strange and the familiar.

Mr & Mrs Love, also released in 2011, is set “anytime, anywhere” and makes several references to Dickens, such as the characters’ names and the quote in the voiceover. Exploring the two children’s ongoing abuse in the unhomely house of a disturbing couple, this short film is not, ironically, about love but about the absence of it. In their dark, unwelcoming, almost claustrophobic home, Mr and Mrs Love are infantilised and dehumanised at the same time, whilst the children have no other alternative but to grow up. It is a sad short film but one which ultimately speaks of hope.

Home and family recur as themes in Wave (2007), which explores a young woman’s transition into adulthood. Capturing a tension in the atmosphere, a sense that someone is watching, and that something is about to happen, the first scenes are followed by the sudden arrival of a very unusual looking man. His strange appearance coupled with the total absence of dialogue between the characters complicate the narrative of the film. There is a sense of confusion about the man’s identity, about what is actually taking place, and about the dynamics between the characters. For instance, while the father happily accepts the new man into his home, the mother’s facial expressions show doubt and concern. Hurtt deliberately discards all speech but replaces it with visual imagery and the senses instead. There is no doubt that the repeated focus on the mother’s face or on the sound of the waves are much more powerful than language itself.

Hurtt’s short films seem to suggest that things are not quite what they seem, and that beyond appearances there is something much more complicated and ambiguous. Despite all appearances, people have darker sides and secrets, the home is not always a place of safe refuge and love, and families are broken. And yet, in this ‘other’ world of dreams, fantasies and anxieties, there is always a powerful sense of hope.

Anca I Niţulescu.