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Divertimento (2020) Review

Divertimento is the latest film from writer/director Keyvan Sheikhalishahi, who must really like making shorts. His previous film Nox was an effectively gritty political thriller, but this thirty-minute work is an elegant and polished piece whose budget would probably have financed a less lavish feature.

Divertimento’s opening made me think I was going to see a James Bond style thriller as Jonas Olsen (Kellan Lutz, Come Out Fighting, Generation Kill), impeccably dressed in a tuxedo and driving an expensive car is planning to join other similarly dressed people for a high stakes game at a castle.

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His journey is interrupted when he nearly runs over a woman lying in the road. Her name is Cathy (Torrey DeVitto, I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, Chicago Med) and she was heading to the castle as well but has no idea how she came to be passed out in the road. After a brief discussion, they proceed to the castle.

The similarity between Divertimento and the Bond films intensifies when Olsen sits down for his match against Gustav (Ola Rapace, Skyfall, The Last Kingdom). Only instead of cards, they play chess. That’s also when the story turns into something from The Twilight Zone or one of Christopher Nolan’s films. It’s a fairly audacious move, one that carries as much risk for the film as the moves of their pieces carry for the players.

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The fact that he pulls it off says much about Sheikhalishahi’s skills as a writer. The way the details of what we’re actually seeing are, in combination with the work of cinematographer Jean-Claude Aumont who shot his previous films Nox and Vesper, slowly revealed pulls the viewer along, needing to see if it’s going where it appears to be going. As with most films of this nature, I can’t say too much about where that is and you’ll appreciate the ending all the more for not knowing ahead of time.

Unfortunately, as with many shorts, actually seeing Divertimento isn’t that easy. You can watch the director’s Twitter feed, if you’re still on there, for announcements of festival screenings. Hopefully, his next announcement will be that he’s doing a feature.

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