As a new regular section of the website I, Andrew (@flightrisker), will be bringing you a weekly helping of short films, placed carefully onto an Internet-spoon and then crammed into your greedy mouth. I shall attempt to loosely theme these posts but I’m already predicting that these themes will descend into a farcical attempt at “professionalism” by about week 3.
Each week, under the flimsy umbrella that is the theme, I will post one Short of the Week as well as one to several other on theme shorts that may be of interest. First we’ll watch the short and then we’ll scroll down for some word soup concerning what we just witnessed. Feel free to then take the discussion outside (comments) and disagree wildly with any and everything I have just typed.
This week we’re looking at “Action Shorts” – specifically ones which rely heavily on one long action sequence. Action shorts can work very well as you have limited time to set up characters and a story anyway so if you just jump right in to some fisticuffs then you can usually get away with not having too much of those other things.
However, if you do take the time to add in these elements you can elevate a technically sound fight sequence to a very effective and dramatic piece of short film. This week’s short is “CONTROLLER” by Iranian born writer/director Saman Kesh. Saman has mostly made long-form music videos before this short film which is evident in the style of this piece. “Midnight Club Pt.1″ and “Placebo – Loud Like Love” are worth checking out, more from a technical point of view.
Anyway, let’s watch it and then we can talk some more. Please set your vibrators to cell phone mode.
Back? Great. So hopefully you enjoyed “CONTROLLER”. I thought it did a lot of things well. You were sold the concept and given an emotional hook in four subtitled lines in the first 45 seconds. The siren going off and the slightly creepy smile immediately give it an uneasy tone which is explored more later on. The censoring effect is quite interesting and is a pretty fresh feeling idea, using video techniques but making them out to be “in-world”.
Once the helmet is put on we’re given another unique element – a video game style menu bar at the bottom where we get to see the various “moves” that the”Controller” is choosing from. The fist is selected and one of the two men in the lift is brutally taken down. I loved that it then trucks out of the elevator and doesn’t show what happens to the second man. We then get a long pan up the building following the elevator as the siren returns and the titles appear.
The fight scene is brilliantly constructed and has some great sequences and innovative set pieces. If I have one criticism it is that maybe there should have been some point where you felt he was in peril. Maybe some type of a “boss” character that wouldn’t have folded quite as easily? Might have added a little to the drama of it.
The dynamic between the boyfriend and girlfriend is very compelling. It’s not your typical guy saves girl trope. She’s using her power to have him save her. This not only keeps her from being a typical damsel but it gives a complexity to their relationship (“Take it easy on these guys” / “Why did you do that?”).
Things take a bit of a twist as he leaves the office room and is confronted by the hazmat guys. Here it’s heavily implied that perhaps saving her isn’t such a great idea. Regardless of the morality of the company’s reasons for keeping her you do start to get the feeling that was still probably a good thing she was not free. They pretty much confirm this by the end (“Isn’t this going to hurt more people?” / “Yes. Sorry.”). This creeping notion and the gory deaths of the hazmat guys is juxtaposed with the beautiful, triumphant score, which for me at least gave the ending a very unsettling feeling. (The soundtrack is all on Spotify and is well worth a listen.)
The film then closes with the girlfriend answering the question that opened the film rounding it all off rather nicely.
Please comment below friends!
- If you enjoyed that it’s worth checking out “I___U” which is a prequel to “CONTROLLER”.
- Burning Hearts by James McFay is also an interesting take on mixing genres a bit, slightly dodgy acting and a denim jacket you’ll never forget. Takes a bit to get going but worth sticking with.
- Not a short but I gotta plug the fight sequence in Blood and Bone from the always awesome Michael Jai White. This is how you do story telling in a fight sequence. Bonus points for a two second short of Julian Sands.