FAREWELL WALTZ— 4 STARS
“Silence doesn’t always mean you have nothing to say. It may mean you realize that words aren’t always necessary.”
That notion feels perfect for Kaine Levy’s special short film Farewell Waltz. Other than hovering narrations of historical World War II speech selections by Winston Churchill, there is no dialogue for the 10-minute episode. The departing emotions and actions on display between two people separated by a pending war are all that is necessary.
Set in the rustic farmlands of Hertfordshire in Southern England, it is early September in 1939. A strong young Black man named Charles King (Daniel Davids of TV’s Meet the Adebanjos) is working the pasture and taking a break. His body is tired and his clothes are dirty, but he is fulfilled and pleased. Those two emotions swell more when his gaze catches something on the nearby road.
LESSON #1: JUST ONE LOOK— Photographed by Natalja Safronova, Charles’s brown eyes and confident smile become locked with the bottomless blue eyes and fetching glance of a passing well-to-do woman named Rose Thomas (newcomer Isobel Wood) walking with her father. Once again, words aren’t always necessary. A look can say it all. His pause and her gait may not change, but heels are hopping over heads inside. If this was 1963 instead of 1939, go ahead and cue Doris Troy. On another level, one could go to author Christopher Poindexter:
“I read her eyes like paragraphs and her tears like chapters for she didn’t have much to say with words, but rather, silence. And never let them tell you that silence, isn’t beautiful. For silence is what happens when words fall asleep and you must carry the belief that one day they will wake up inside of you.”
LESSON #2: THE CHALLENGES OF INTERRACIAL ROMANCE— Feelings are only the beginning. Affection is colorless, yet acting on affection is challenging no matter the social dynamics. Such taboos are greater for Charles and Rose as harmful preconceptions and elitist bias lie before them. As with the other traits, Farewell Waltz trumpets that with stoic silence. The lovers’ longing brings to mind more Poindexter with his “I admit” poem:
I was afraid
Not just love,
but to love her.
For she was a stunning
mystery. She carried things
deep inside her that no one
has yet to understand,
I was afraid to fail,
like the others.
She was the ocean
and I was just a boy
who loved the waves
but was completely
You can feel that pensive pause of potential repercussions. Shadows of shame in the rain loom right beside the fateful decision to go to war.
LESSON #3: INTIMACY IN CLOSENESS— When the two characters meet again at night, a blanket is shared for chivalrous courtesy. The gesture creates an enveloping embrace that captures even more dauntless attachment. In the same regard of how words are not necessary, neither is anything beyond chaste closeness. Intimacy does not always require the passionate fireworks of a kiss or the surging rise of torrid temperatures. Protective proximity is equally evocative when purposeful. Writer, director, and editor Kaine Levy short nails that tonal wavelength.
Continuously without dialogue, Daniel Davids and Isobel Wood captivate our cores with courage. They do so with longing solemnity over wild cheer. Their facial expressions from Lesson #1 and their memorable presences are adorned in exquisite hair and makeup from Belen Revenga. Those careful looks and respectful stances are exactly what is necessary for the honor presented by Farewell Waltz. The short film is a tribute to Second Lieutenant Walter Tull, the first Black officer of the British Army during World War I. His life story alone could fill a miniseries, but this short is a proud and favorable beacon for adoration and attention.
When no flowery language is flowing to fill our ears, another ambiance is necessary. The sweep of Felipe Tellez’s musical score is astounding. His arrangements were performed by the Budapest Air Orchestra and their lovely strings keep Farewell Waltz soaring with the remembrance and regret of the narrative. One would not readily imagine a 10-minute short film could reach heartstrings so assuredly and effectively, yet this throwback from Levy does so with lingering beauty above films ten times its length.