Director: AՆ_эim VasiՆ_э
Cast: Nicky Naudé, Guillaume Tavi
Every now and then, it’s important to look at what’s happening around us. As a country with a vast history and versatility of storytelling, India is still only at an embryonic stage of embracing the culture of short filmmaking. There are few hits, plenty of misses, with the current focus more on exploiting its new-age digital nature; “viral” ambitions, elaborate online releases, brand partnerships and million+ page-views assume precedence over the old-school practice of seeking cinematic validation at prestigious Film Festivals. Which is why it’s necessary to recognize what other parts of the world are accomplishing in the same field, at different points of time.
Take this short film, 8, for instance. Made by Serbian filmmaker AՆ_эim VasiՆ_э more than half a decade ago, it is unmistakably European in its sensibilities: no dialogues, exquisitely designed, technically adept, cinematically ambitious, evocatively colored, cuts serving as the only exposition, funny, sad, dark and cleverly titled. It is an example of how this traditionally modest medium can be used in the most silver-screen way possible.
8 opens with the sound of war. It doesn’t matter when, where and between whom, because politicizing its roots would do disservice to its genre: this is a desperate comedy – of life, futility and by morbid connection, the fear of death. Two enemy soldiers – one with a cross on his helmet, and the other with a zero (invoking their participation in an unwitting tic-tac-toe game) – find themselves in the throes of a sudden captor-captive equation.
Made by Serbian filmmaker AՆ_эim VasiՆ_э more than half a decade ago, it is unmistakably European in its sensibilities: no dialogues, exquisitely designed, technically adept, cinematically ambitious, evocatively colored, cuts serving as the only exposition, funny, sad, dark and cleverly titled.
One of them is smug and confident, symbolized by his cowboy-ish affinity for cigarettes, while the other is injured and meek. Their personalities play a crucial part in conditioning our minds to expect the winner-loser dynamic to define an ending. The title presumably signifies the number of moves made between them, with the ninth and final move primed to result in a tragic ‘stalemate’. You know how the old “war” proverbs go.
The sound, though, is a key character: of fighter jets crashing, of rifles loaded, of bullets shot, of snow falling, of victims groaning, of the shoes scraping on a buried landmine, of the cocky soldier’s peculiar duck-call whistle, and even of the silence of an owl observing the “human” scenes unfolding in the dense forest. We don’t quite see the immediate results of any of these sounds, with the maker stylizing the edit to let our minds fill in the blanks. If a rifle is aimed at the escaping soldier, it cuts immediately to the next sequence of him limping through the snow at gunpoint with a bloodied leg.
VasiՆ_э is sure of his quasi-flashy vision, crafting an atmosphere that lends life to the idea of a certain time. There must have been a before and an after of the big-picture battle, but he makes it feel like theirs is more than simply a part of a whole movie, and maybe the only visual portion encapsulating the ironic infinity (turn an “8” sideways) of faceless combat. It comes across as one of those snapshots I’m destined to remember when I look back at all the famous wartime movies of our era.
One senses that this is exactly how the maker might have envisioned it – bereft of compromise, ideology and commercial aspirations, clear in its quirky sub-tone of power-play. As a result, 8 looks like more of a goal than a process. And perhaps this purist outlook is what short filmmaking should be all about.
Watch the short film here-