In Focus: The 5th Shadow

Written and Directed by Dave Sparx
Produced by Paul Nunes and Dave Sparx
Starring Neveen Hanna, Joel McIlroy, Sophie Cleary and Drew Pearson
Release Date: 2018


Henry Blank was a child prodigy, a young artist with the world at his feet. Approaching middle age, inspiration waning, a supportive wife becoming increasingly bored, existence for Henry is a dark and lonely place.

On the eve of his first exhibition in twenty years, wracked with a fear of failure and coupled with his wife’s departure Henry suffers a mental breakdown. He relives his birth and witnesses the horrific murder of his father, by his own mother. An event that has plagued not only Henry but the town of Reverie ever since.

Waking from a coma after confronting the man he believes responsible for ending his marriage, Henry’s world has regurgitated itself. This time in a truly new form. Nightmares have become dreams, foes/friends and hell, an ineffable nirvana. His wife Jane however finds herself in a place she has no control over. A marionette in a revenge plagued lunatics puppet box that is quickly driving her to the brink.

Reborn and awake Henry’s profound state of consciousness draws him to a strange encounter with a foul mouthed man living in his down pipe and into the arms of a beautiful jazz singer. She offers hope and together they dissolve time but can she be trusted or is she just bait, luring Henry deeper, back into a world where the line between nightmare and reality no longer exists? If he has any chance of survival he must discover his final masterpiece but ultimately Henry must learn to forgive.

The 5th Shadow is the existential journey of a man crippled by jealousy, he is alone in a world that has no place for him and the razor thin line between dream and reality.

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Here’s what director Dave Sparx told Cinema Australia.

The 5th Shadow was born out of a need to examine loss, the tools we use in order to cope while carrying that burden and the search for something to fill the void left by that loss.

The film is an extremely personal story, arising from a recent chapter in my life. My way of dealing with this situation was to project strength, indifference, behaviour that most likely wore the clothes of a manic state. I was indestructible, alive and on fire.

It wasn’t until later; with the luxury of hindsight, that I realised it was a very different story internally, I was burning up. Unconsciously I’d found a way to temporarily protect myself from it. It made me think of how extraordinary the idea of perception is and I wondered just how honest the reflection we see of ourselves in the mirror really is.

Had my need to cope altered my persona? I felt like several people at once. I began reading a lot of non-fiction on the subjects of mourning and depression. The latter had for years, held a strong fascination with me. I had previously watched a close friend fall into the claws of deep psychosis and more recently listened to the experiences of another, in the recovery stages from bi-polar.

Whilst his anecdotes of events intrigued me, the familiarity of his symptoms often scared me. One word in particular continued to surface: delusion.

It was at this point I discovered the concept of fugue states and their awakening in the aftermath of crisis. It’s definition; the brain’s ability to block out a catastrophic event in order to continue through life was the seed for The 5th Shadow. I’d found the story that would become my first feature film.

Initially the intention was to make a cheap, simple and quickly written feature with three characters and one location. Eleven years later, the film has evolved beyond the subject of self-preservation into a shattered love story.

Cinema at its best is philosophical and at the risk of coming off pretentious, The 5th Shadow has always been about exploring and discovering new questions. Whilst the heroes path is tragic, violent and on the surface, without redemption, the film at its heart is a cautionary tale about the importance of letting go.

The 5th Shadow is a film for film lovers, an attempt to bridge the gap between abstract, underground cinema and the mainstream. Take a deep breath and strap yourself in. Here is a mind bending trip through an unchartered, cinematic landscape.

You can keep up to date with The 5th Shadow here.

2 thoughts on “In Focus: The 5th Shadow

  1. Pingback: The Fifth Shadow – New Movie That’s Mad – Greg Poppleton's Radio Lounge

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