In a world where names are essential to our self-identity, director Carlos Conceição strips his characters down to their occupation in his latest film, Name Above Title. Despite the film’s title, we the audience never discover what the protagonist’s actual name is due to the dialogue free nature of the film. In lieu of a name or dialogue providing exposition about the characters, the audience is forced to make an impression of these individuals based on their actions alone.
For our protagonist, it’s quite easy to judge his morals and values based on how he acts. The man with no name is a Ted Bundy-like serial killer, who uses his charm to lure and strangle young women. Its his handsome sensibility that has the media misinterpret a sick gesture he makes as a sadly sweet moment, propelling him into the spotlight.
However, we never hear how the media depicts our protagonist. The only series of news reels in the film are muted and muffled like Charlie Brown’s parents. The absence of dialogue allows the audience to focus on just how sociopathic and methodical the killer really is. We see the emptiness in his eyes as he strangles tye last breath out of his victims or the casualness of his having a smoke on a boat after disposing of a body. We see this despicable human being not in the eyes of the news, but who he actually is.
Except in the last 15 minutes of the film, Conceição tries to overlay a heavy handed messiah metaphor onto the protagonist, which makes one question the whole premise of the film. While Name Above Title initially seems to touch on how the contemporary news cycle can alter and distort what is reality, the last third tries to have us sympathize with the cruel protagonist. In a way, these final moments of the film distort reality in the same way that the news did, giving us the sociopath’s skewed lens of the world and his situation.
The contemporary age is obsessed with verbal sparrings in the media and on social media channels that it becomes easy to forget reality. Name Above Title reminds us of the singular power of the moving image to make us feel something that may be pure fantasy.
The Silver Lining
A film about a charming serial killer only works if its lead is charismatic. Thankfully, Name Above Title largely succeeds in this regard thanks to Matthieu Charneau, who does a great job at playing a Ted Bundy type. Charneau has a suaveness to his personality that makes him likeable. At the same time, Charneau, between his menacing mustache and lack of emotion in his facial expression, makes him sinister and lifeless as well. It’s challenging to act menacing without dialogue but Charneau pulls it off beautifully.
Virtual tickets for Name Above Title are still available as part of NIGHTSTREAM 2021, until October 13th. To purchase your tickets now, click here.