Film & TV

Cinema Film Review ‘Crescendo’

A Short Film That Packs Some Powerful Messages into Its Limited Runtime.
BY Ian Kane TIMEMarch 2, 2022 PRINT

PG | 13 min | Drama, Short | 2011

Short films can be very tricky to pull off successfully. While in feature films there is plenty of time to delve into numerous characters and their histories, as well as gradually let narratives unfold, with shorts you only have a limited time to pack in as much about these crucial elements as possible.

Shorts that are too short but have intriguing storylines may also leave viewers feeling as though they were shortchanged (puns intended).

On the other hand, productions that meander along and don’t really go anywhere typically have people scratching their heads and wondering what else they could have done with the time they wasted.

Well, it seems that award-winning Mexican director Alonso Alvarez got the formula for short film success right with his 2011 project, “Crescendo.”

Things start off on a relatively drab note—we’re transported to the Holy Roman Empire in the 18th-century. As the main character, Maria Magdalena (Montserrat Espadalé) narrates, we see a piano as she sums up her dire circumstances: “My husband says that life is like a symphony. He tells me this every time he beats me… because I am a sour note.”

Epoch Times Photo
Maria Magdalena’s life is in turmoil (Montserrat Espadalé) in “Crescendo.” (Metanoia Films)

Maria, pregnant, catches yet another woman cheating with her alcoholic husband Adalric (Patrick Nuo) and it becomes quite evident that she’s in an unhappy marriage. As she walks through her town, she goes on to describe how her first husband was a good man who died and that she also lost her mother shortly thereafter. As she mournfully gazes into the face of a passing child, she mentions that a couple of her previous children died as well.

Interestingly, much of Maria’s exposition is narrated and is delivered in metaphors that have to do with musical symphonies. She likens her sorrow-filled life to being a discordant series of sour notes with little, if anything, to look forward to.

This all culminates in a drastic decision—Maria intends to have an abortion since she doesn’t want to bring a new child into her sad life. She visits a local mom-and-pop business that sells all sorts of medicinal products. After purchasing some kind of potent elixir that will kill the baby within her womb, she returns home and prepares to ingest it.

But a dramatic event transpires that sets her on a new course. The birth of her child, Ludwig, possibly portends a different future. Will her sadness and suffering finally come to an end? (Hint: This particular “Ludwig” is rather special).

Epoch Times Photo
Maria Magdalena (Montserrat Espadalé) prepares to take a drastic measure in “Crescendo.” (Metanoia Films)

One of the things that impressed me about this short film right off the bat was its excellent set design and costumes. It really nails the 18th-century aesthetics and you feel that you’re actually there along with the film’s various characters.

Another thing I appreciated was how its narrative started off painting an extremely bleak picture and eventually struck a much more hopeful tone. Admittedly, after watching the first half of the film, I began to wonder if it was all about women victimhood, which is obviously overdone in many Hollywood products. However, things gradually became brighter and the meaningful messages that the film carries came to the fore.

Epoch Times Photo
A music teacher (Ali Landry Monteverde, R) may offer Maria Magdalena (Montserrat Espadalé) the key to happiness in “Crescendo.” (Metanoia Films)

This is a great film to show to teenagers because it shows that every action can have potentially severe consequences, and thus, should be considered more carefully. In these modern times of convenience and rash, knee jerk decision making, “Crescendo” shows us that sometimes it’s better to reconsider potentially catastrophic actions and instead choose life over death—it’s a powerful film that ends on an ultimately uplifting note.


Director: Alonso Alvarez
Starring: Montserrat Espadalé, Ali Landry Monteverde, Patrick Nuo
Running Time: 13 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG
Release Date: October 14, 2011

Rated: 4 stars out of 5

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Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Ian Kane
Ian Kane is an U.S. Army veteran, author, filmmaker, and actor. He is dedicated to the development and production of innovative, thought-provoking, character-driven films and books of the highest quality.
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