In a decaying vast mansion, an old fragile man is haunted by the ghosts of his past. With only his butler to accompany him, the pair endeavour into a bizarre journey of sanity shaken by the past. Butler is certainly an interesting and utterly absorbing psychological short film of a butler’s marginal life of serving his master. A short film with little to no dialog but is driven entirely on its narrative structure. Directed and written by William Powers, Butler is somehow a parallel depiction of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Tell-Tale Heart. Poe’s short story is about a butler that narrates his murder of an old man and how his sanity delves into monomania and paranoia. Powers short film is an endeavour of an old man haunted by his past and a butler that cannot escape his.
With the introduction, we are plunged into a vast empty mansion that seems to be decaying with the occupant. The tortured inner world of the old master is greeted with breakfast in bed served by his butler. Straight away the tension builds when the old master mistakes his butler with his last house keeper and verbally attacks him for forgetting his butter. The awkwardness of the butler and frail old master shows a character confused by a sense of pain; this is evident very clearly in the scene. William Powers shows through the face of the gaunt and haunted old master, that this is an agonised old man that has become twisted by alcoholism and is swallowed by the misery of his past. The Butler that serves his master with no regret or repugnance is a man who wants to escape his own past, concerning his father, by caring for another. By the end we see the pair both embrace each other by realising that the old master may have lost his biological son, but has now found another and the butler does not see his master as a superior, but rather as a father.
What really drives this short film is its uniqueness of showing the past. By watching the master we know that this old fragile man is haunted by his past, but we don’t need to see dream sequences or flashbacks to know that. By the look of his age he hasn't quite reached that time in life where he needs a wheelchair. There is also nothing wrong with him physically. However it is his mental status of being psychologically damaged by his past that has left him so crippled. Butler shows that with an ambient film making technique of little dialogue but strong narrative and beautiful cinematography, that this is a short film that even Edgar Allan Poe would certainly have enjoyed.
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