Benjamin, a young and rich 20-something music aficionado, returns to his family estate after a long time away. He strolls in confidently, making a late entry, and takes his place at the dinner table. His father’s serious tone, however, ends the promise of a relaxing family get-together and spells trouble. As his father makes the great reveal, Benjamin suddenly loses his hearing.
'Decrescendo' stays true to its Italian title, which basically means ‘a reduction in the volume of something’. However, it does not limit itself to the peculiar affliction which the main character seems to experience in a critical moment of his life, but likewise serves as an overarching metaphor. Practically, the loss of hearing is deftly utilized in order to highlight a transformation of the main character and separation of his personality into two antithetical halves.
This process is a delight, and couldn’t have been possible without Drew Schrum’s impeccable and layered performance as Benjamin. As the prodigal son arrives late at the family gathering in his shiny Porsche and strolls in with a carefree and ultra-confident demeanor, an aura of untouchability is projected around the character. After a witty exchange with his step-sister, veiled ironies directed towards his mother, and a domineering performance in front of his father, Benjamin peaks in terms of confidence, only for matters to go severely downhill from that moment on. Drew Schrum absolutely nails both his character’s quirks, as well as the downfall that follows.
What is remarkable is that the visual style remains consistent even after the thematic shift occurs. The well-lit environments, beautiful surroundings and lavish décor of the family estate all remain in place, the only shift that occurs is in how Benjamin perceives them as a result of his newfound problem – in whichever terms this is to be contextualized. The contrapuntal score alternates with slightly more unnerving sound effects and coupled together, craft a tense atmosphere that is the diametral opposite of the happy, leisure pace of the intro section.
Director Olivia Chiesi unmistakably showcases her great talent with a wonderfully crafted project, that tells just enough, and refrains from doing too much, or being over-explanatory. The final result, a harmonious mix of symmetrical structure, experimental visual style and quality acting, qualifies as a great success.