In my first review of Edinburgh Short Film Festival, I criticised the audience more than the films! For the second screening, at Summerhall, there was a whole different atmosphere. It felt more like a festival, and the audience were in the right mood. This was helped by the choice – and theme – of the films.

When I asked Paul Bruce, ESFF Director, how the selection process happens, he explained that the Head Programmer, Carys Evans, organises the selection list for each night. This evening’s offering titled ‘Love Be Damned’ was not for the faint-hearted.

A warts an’ all look at love, with all emotions on show, we had friendship and betrayal in Tigre where an argument in a safari park leads to a gruesome conclusion. There was surreal animation where a wolf falls in love with the moon, and a zombie rom-com from India that had the audience in stitches.

The biggest laugh came in the shortest film, Accident, when after a car crash in the middle of nowhere a woman discovers her boyfriend’s infidelity when they try to call emergency services. It creates an explosive situation that really shouldn’t have been so funny. But that’s schadenfreude for you.

More gruesome still was Fantastic Plastic, a film about a woman who letting herself into her ex’s flat discovers a plastic doll modelled on herself. With the uncanny flavour of Hoffmann, things turn weird and then, deeply uncomfortable.

This film was the subject of the post-screening Q&A, with director, Sarah Tafel. A young film-maker with only five years’ experience, Tafel wanted to wanted to write a story about a falling in love with a manikin, but realised this was a well-trodden fiction. Changing the point-of-view to that of the woman gave a new perspective.

To be replaced by a ‘doll’ is creepy enough, but to turn the tables on this fantasy trope was ingenious. We were shown how the man really believed in his own created fantasy. Even the doll’s micro-movements showed how real she was to the man; meanwhile, the woman in question hid beneath the bed, experiencing rape as it were by proxy.

No wonder the film won a Shocking Short Award. It seems from the discussion that this director is interested in making films about the way artificiality – whether plastic or intelligent – can take over.

With the evening’s theme-title there was, perhaps, a secondary concept: what is real? By changing perspectives and seeing things differently – even uncomfortably – we can learn about human behaviour, and about love. Or even, laugh at the way a relationship can crash and burn – literally.

Films shown:

TIGRE Delphine Deloget

FANTASTIC PLASTIC Sarah Tafel

MANO A MANO Louise Courvoisier

ACCIDENT David Cocheret

LA LLORONA Harold Leonard

THE NIGHT Martín Romero

HORS SAISON Stella di Tocco

THE FEATHER PILLOW Joseph Specker Nys

For more on the ESFF programme, click here.