The short film is my current favourite art form. Narrative and dialogue stripped down to essentials. No subplots, character development, ‘stars’ or mumbling. Just a zap of pure storytelling, or poetry. Anything is possible, anyone can do it. Pure visual punk.
I had planned to go to the London Short Film Festival, but didn’t. I found that many of the films being screened were already online however, so I watched them on Vimeo instead. These are my highlights.
A man wakes up in a chair in a bare room. There’s a bible on his lap with strange diagrams drawn on the pages and a white mouse scampering round. There are several versions of himself in biohazard suits, carrying out a sinister unknown mission in a building of endless corridors and tunnels that end where they begin. A mashup of Alice In Wonderland meets Being John Malkovich in a malfunctioning computer game nightmare you can’t wake up from. No dialogue, excellent soundtrack, completely unsettling.
90: Julianna – a portrait
The director’s 90 year-old Polish grandmother reflects on her life – an ordinary woman, an ordinary life, and thus unique. The grand-daughter asks questions; the old woman talks, with the wonderful bluntness that the approach of the end of life brings, and visits her daughter’s grave. Nothing else happens. A beautifully understated portrait of a long life reaching completion.
Eight minutes of exhilarating visuals, with an equally exhilarating central premise – an Indian city as an architectural bio-computer, an intelligent organic data network. A group of children play hide and seek by hacking into unseen spaces, unlocking hidden temples, gardens and jungles through commands encoded in gestures, understood by the sentient city. The colours, the glorious fantasy cityscape and the lush secret gardens within are almost too much to take in. The narrative doesn’t quite live up to the extraordinary landscapes, but you’re too lost in the visuals to care.
This Little Place in Gospel Oak
An unmarked shopfront on an unremarkable suburban London street conceals a magical toyshop for anyone bold enough enough to disbelieve the sign on the door: This shop does not exist. Starting seemingly as a fantasy, we gradually realise this place is real – and that the narrator is its unique owner, maker of many of the surreal handmade mechanical treasures and lovingly crafted objects that lie within. A low-budget, anyone-can-do-it gem. All you need is a story.
Visions of Albion
Mini-documentary in which we follow a group of Chinese tourists on their coach tour of our green and pleasant land taking in Buck House, Cambridge, Stratford-on-Avon etc. Long, fixed, oddy-composed and slightly uncomfortable shots subtly highlight the joylessness of the package tourism experience. But all done with warmth and quiet humour. The bizarre Camilla Parker-Bowles anecdote is a highlight.
The Weight of Mountains
Early on the narrator apologises, unnecessarily, for technical geological language. But you’re already feasting on the timeless beauty, majesty and utter enormity of beautifully shot – and gradually dissolving – mountains. Sublime footage, quietly educational, deeply moving.