The next episode on Frame of Mind is Things Missing/Missed, a whirlwind exploration of intimacy in isolation. In a disruptive storytelling style, the Dallas-based Danielle Georgiou Dance Group performs expressions of anxiety and faulty communication in multi-layered scenes. It can be a bit hard to swallow – and to follow – this complex story, so here are a few things to keep in mind when watching Things Missing/Missed:
1. It was made during quarantine
Originally a play, Things Missing/Missed was adapted for screen during the COVID-19 pandemic. The original script was written for the stage in 2015 by Houston-based playwrights Melissa Flower and Philip Hays, and Dallas playwright, Justin Locklear. They wanted to create a play that could travel among different Texas cities. Developing a multi-city collaboration not often seen among performing arts. As the pandemic struck, Danielle Georgiou adapted the script to screen.
“The concepts we were exploring in 2015 were exactly the lives we were living in 2020,” said Georgiou. “In full isolation, having to deal with our domestic situations, having to relook at what we all want out of life.”
2. It explores various emotional and mental states of mind
There’s an abnormal structure to the story. Instead of a film with a fluid visual direction, Things Missing/Missed is disjointed. In a surreal performance, the story quickly diverts from intimate scenes between two characters that leave you on the edge of your seat to whimsical 2D shadow puppetry, pulling your attention into a brand new world.
“We were fascinated by how we could use something as simple as two-dimensional shadow puppets to create another world because these people are living in full isolation so you’ll do anything you can to entertain yourself and anything you can to distract yourself,” said Georgiou.
3. It’s influenced by gothic dramas
The film relishes the bizarre. The feeling of Things Missing/Missed is weighty, yet at times lighthearted. While making the screen adaptation, Georgiou consumed a lot of horror-inspired media like The Women In Black, the long-running West End horror play, and post-modern Gothic novels like Mexican Gothic. It shows.
This mix of gothic-inspired themes and pandemic themes of today creates a whirlwind environment in Things Missing/Missed that leaves you wondering what could possibly happen next.
4. When you watch, focus on intimacy and communication
What drives the film are the moments between the characters’ spoken lines. If you get confused while you’re watching, think about how what you are seeing could be an interpretation of intimacy, spoken and non-spoken. There are distressing moments in Things Missing/Missed. It’s difficult to watch a character have power over another, using words as a way to dominate and to hurt.
5. There’s space to find your own experience in the narrative
Although the viewer is at the whim of this rollercoaster story, there is infinite room to come away with your own interpretations. A recurring motif in the film is the wearing of masks. Not the CDC-approved masks we know all too well, but cardboard masks devoid of emotion in replacement of the character’s face. When we watch a performance, we look to the actors’ face. This tells us how we should feel. But when there is no face to look at, only a body, we can fill in the gaps and create our own interpretation.
“The cardboard mask, the blank faces, give a sense of protection. But they also illustrate the fear that lives inside of us when we cannot face our own realities,” said Georgiou.