Mark Rosenblatt’s short Ganef takes on difficulties of inherited trauma in a thought-provoking and very effective way. It is a careful piece that packs a lot more than you would expect in its brief runtime.
A little girl in 60s London (Izabella Dziewanska) is spooked by a dark tale from her mother’s Holocaust past, resulting in her beginning to believe that the house cleaner (Sophie McShera) she once adored has become a sinister thief.
Trauma comes in a multitude of forms, and one of the more complicated and often forgotten about results of trauma is when it affects your children. This inherited trauma is at the heart of Ganef, as the young and impressionable Ruthie is presented with her mother’s harrowing story, she becomes immediately suspicious of the cleaner Lynn. Someone who just moments before she was playing games and being tickled by.
This sudden change in the relationship between girl and cleaner is one that will be hard to fix as that story is a difficult one to shake for such a young child. When Ruthie and Lynn have another moment at the end of the film, you see as clear as day the damage that has been done. The trust is gone; only Ruthie’s family are the ones that she feels she can trust. Even if her own mother (Lydia Wilson) has moved past the first misunderstanding, as she should as a responsible adult. It is much more difficult for a child to understand and process such complicated thoughts as quickly and easily.
Left in a horrible mental limbo, Ruthie has to try and hope that her parents help her or be stuck mistrusting anyone she sees. We even see glimpses of Ruthie wanting to be the child she was later in the film as the obvious guilt that shrouded her tries to lift. Dziewanska is a joy to watch in her screen debut. She brings forward that natural innocence a child has still when the information is shared; she is able to convey her mistrust with just the tiniest of changes to her expression. Our two adult actresses see a lot of complexity in their performances as the forever haunted mother and betrayed maid. All three performances are a joy to behold as so little is said but so much felt.
One of many great things that writer-director Mark Rosenblatt has done here in Ganef is that he hasn’t gone for the stereotypes as one would expect. Mrs Hirth is far more complex than you would imagine. Especially after she realises what she has done to her daughter and tries to remove the tension that might be present between herself and Lynn. Although she is clearly still traumatised from her childhood, she is trying. Then we have Lynn, who could be a character who takes that sinister turn and becomes what Ruthie believes her to be.
When really at her core, she is a working-class girl who is around all these gorgeous things and can only help but appreciate them. To touch the fur coat against her skin, to dream of brushing her hair with as fancy a brush. She is anyone who dreams of more but is also someone who is of a good heart and has no ill intentions towards her employer. Yet, for one member of that household, that relationship may be broken forever.
Rosenblatt has created a memorable short film in Ganef that puts a focus on the visual side of storytelling. With stellar production design and natural performances, Rosenblatt leaves us wanting more.
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