David Lynch in a -narrative- nutshell.

Jul 18, 2023
Dimitris Passas

I could never expect such a level of directorial maturity from a 25-year-old who has already 2 short films under his belt (Vesper and Nox) and now delves deeper into the art of filmmaking with his 2020 mid-length movie Divertimento, which showcases the full extent of the young Keyvan Sheikhalishahi's unique set of skills and vision. The, dense and complex, narrative is framed by an international ensemble cast including Kellan Lutz (The Twilight Saga), Torrey DeVitto (Pretty Little Liars), Ola Rapace (Wallander), Ellie Haydon (Harlots), and Gotz Otto (Tomorrow Never Dies) that further elevates the already high production values of this pleasant surprise of a short film. Observing the nature and structure of the featured story in Divertimento, one can see clearly some of the young French director's influences that range from Christopher Nolan's cinema to action-packed flicks in the same vein to the James Bond saga with some additional strokes of David Lynch's surrealism embellishing the mix. The movie reads like an exemplary, eerie and bizarre in its mood, little novella and the multi-layered plot resembles a Russian doll, slowly revealing its many tiers to the audience which is kept on the edge of their seats throughout the 30 minutes of the film's runtime.

I will not write much about the plot as it would certainly spoil a singular watching experience, the only thing that I would deem fit to mention is that Divertimento is a little flick that ought to be watched at least twice as, according to my own personal experience at least, it is in the second viewing that all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, leaving no room for ambiguities or misinterpretations. The narrative revolves around a game within a game, a chess game in particular, that is set in a haunting French mansion of the late 18th century, adding to the title's bizarre atmosphere. The themes explored by Sheikhalishahi are several, though his main motifs seem to be the nature of memory and the burden of guilt. Those themes are wrapped into a powerful suspenseful plotline that is aided by an ominous soundtrack by Gréco Casadesus and Gregory Cotti which bolsters the main storyline by adding to the element of apprehension that permeates the production as a whole.

One cannot help but wonder what Sheikhalishahi, who is also the film's screenwriter, would be capable of doing if he had a larger playground at his disposal, a full feature film allowing him to extend his narrative skills in a production that would band together the genres of crime, mystery, and thriller in an unprecedented way. The director of Divertimento certainly leaves numerous promises for the future and I would expect nothing less than a fully fleshed, intriguing and atmospheric neo-noir in the finest tradition of the western grand auteurs. This latest film of his literally plays with the audience's minds, the images and the words that acquire new potential meanings, being within a context marked by polysemy. It should be noted that Divertimento won more than 50 awards, one of them being the prestigious Grand Jury Prize at the Seattle Film Festival (2021). I should also thank from the bottom of my heart the production company, Amitice, which provided me with a press screener in exchange for an honest review. I will keep my eyes open for their future productions.


Keyvan Sheikhalishahi
Written by
Keyvan Sheikhalishahi
Ola Rapace, Kellan Lutz, Torrey DeVitto, Götz Otto, Christian Hillborg
Production Company
31 minutes

Join the Discussion