Cléa van der Grijn’s Flux at the New Jersey Film Festival

New Jersey Stage | By Emily Ranieri

Cléa van der Grijn’s Flux is an experimental short film that’s being shown at the New Jersey Film Festival on Friday, January 28th, 2022. The film explores themes such as death, loss, and the self-reflection that naturally occurs when one is isolated. The music in the background is in the style of Sean-nós, a traditional Irish style of a capella usually performed in the Irish language. This choice of music incorporated the Irish heritage of Cléa van der Grijn into the film as well as added to its ghostly nature; the slow and controlled vocals of the Sean-nós added an element of darkness as well as spirituality that captures the viewer’s attention. Cléa van der Grijn has said that she tries to understand the culture of death and loss through her art, and that definitely comes through in Flux.


The film opens with a young man waking up in the middle of the night. As he gets out of bed, he passes a mirror with an intricately designed gold frame. Mirrors appear multiple times during this sequence and throughout the film to show a period of self-reflection that this young man is experiencing. He seems to be at a crossroads in his life and is being forced to reevaluate his decisions and past experiences, as symbolized by the mirror. The mirror seems to be an entity unto itself; it looms over the young man as if he is scared to look inward and self-reflect. Flux also delves into the theme of ritual, as the young man can be seen getting dressed and getting undressed multiple times throughout the film.


The surreal images seen in Flux are definitely psychologically disturbing but also evoke viewer questions and wonder. As the young man is walking around the dark and quiet house, he opens the refrigerator to see three full plates of human tongues. As he stares at the tongues in the open fridge, he casually drinks from a glass bottle of milk, the only other item in the fridge. The tongues in the fridge represent the inability to express, as demonstrated by the young man’s lack of dialogue throughout the film.


After getting dressed, the young man ventures outside into the night, being guided by the light of the moon and a flashlight. The juxtaposition of the darkness and the light is really powerful; this young man is being consumed by the darkness of his own mind and being led out of it by white, motherly symbols such as the moon. As he continues his trek, he comes across a dead swan on the riverbank and brings the corpse home. When he reenters his home, he is seen picking up the swan through a mirror’s reflection and bringing it into his bedroom. He places the dead bird on his bed and falls asleep; as he sleeps, the swan turns into a young woman in a white dress. This brings the themes of maternity and fertility into his reality while he is in this dreamy, oneiric world. Also, in Irish mythology, humans turn into animals during the witching hour. The woman begins to go into active labor and eventually gives birth to about half a dozen eggs.


He wakes to find the woman and eggs in his bed, and he proceeds to collect the eggs and take them away. However, he wakes up again to find the dead swan in his bed once again, realizing the surrealism of what had just taken place in this dream realm. The young man is completely distraught over this loss of the young woman and her eggs. 


Flux is beautifully shot and the attention to detail in the individual shots is apparent. Each frame is riddled with symbolism and disturbing images that force the viewer to think about what they are seeing. The film is shot with very little light to emphasize the internal darkness felt through experiences of death, loss, and grief. The little light that is seen in the film is carefully placed and has a purpose, adding to the meaning and thoughtfulness of the film.


The New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2022 will be taking place on select Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays between January 28 and February 20, 2022. As a result of COVID the Festival will be a virtual one again this Spring. All the films will be available virtually via Video on Demand for 24 hours on their show date. More info is available here: 


January 25, 2022