The UC Riverside Department of Theatre, Film and Digital Production (TFDP) showcased the student film “Muse” as part of its ongoing Sixth Annual Film Festival on April 27 and April 28.
Written and directed respectively by UCR students Justin Reich and Carlos Viejobueno, “Muse” is a period piece set in 1963 during the Cold War. West and East Berlin are separated by the Berlin Wall, splitting the two countries, as well as the two protagonists of the story: An American playwright and his East German muse.
Reich is a second-year screenwriting graduate student, and his first draft of “Muse” was inspired by what he learned about sublimation as an undergraduate. Sublimation is a defense mechanism, he says, in which one transfers their negative compulsions — such as murder and theft — to positive and useful acts. This defense mechanism was the foundation of the protagonist and to make the audience question he his true intentions.
However, the story evolved though collaboration to incorporate the romantic story of two lovers separated by the Wall in the 1960s. Initially, the story was designed to be set in contemporary times, but the change was made to create a parallel of what occurred in the past to current events.
Viejobueno, a fourth-year film production major and now the first undergraduate director of a TFDP film, explained he added the Berlin Wall as a “callback to the time we are living in now.” He wanted to draw a parallel between the U.S. opposition of the Berlin Wall and to the current U.S. support of Donald Trump’s wall.
“Muse” incorporates a vintage feel with a combination of what Viejobueno calls a “Alfred Hitchcock feel,” and what Reich calls a “romanticism of the 1950s but with a dark turn.” The majority of the film was shot in a dutch angle — a term that describes tilted camera angles used to evoke discomfort — and had an original composition by UCR student Jonah Chaffin. Reich explained he wanted his screenplay to incorporate a similar style as Austrian film director, Michael Haneke, whom he admires for using the composition to work alongside the story.
The film was funded by TFDP. Every year, the department calls for writers to submit an original 10-page screenplay. One is chosen based on its content and its ability to be created in a short period of time. The department acts as the producers by funding the project, finding the actors and premiering the movie. The film festival includes other films besides “Muse” such as others by Reich, Viejobueno and several other students. They ranged in topic, from dealing with the discovery of the Holy Spirit in “Joseph’s Gateway,” to a story centered on watches that could teleport someone throughout time in “Space-Time Shenanigans.” The films are expected to be uploaded on the TFDP Youtube channel in the near future.