Monday, June 05, 2006

Precursor's QUIETUS

QUIETUS
Directed by Precursor, London, 2004, 3 minutes
Source: BBC Shorts

A tangle of chords, cables, and tubes. Flowers bloom from a few of the chords while other cables lead to hunks of organic material. Blood runs through some of the "veins." Butterflies dance through the web of wires. Blood begins to trickle from leaks in the tubes. A butterfly stops and rests on the table. The camera dollies pass the mumble of bleeding wires into darkness.

This twisted vision of production studio Precursor supposedly depicts “a biotech experiment gone awry” and is a natural follow up to their 2003 short film entitled Anomaly. Like Anomaly, Quietus seems to be a commentary on the fallacies of futuristic technology, but ironically uses computer and cinematic technology to deliver this message. The synopsis the BBC provides for Quietus speaks of order vs. chaos and life vs. death. These themes are visible through the easily recognizable symbols of blood, butterflies, and the jumble of cables and chords. So, in this regard, this visual medium is perfect for expressing the filmmakers’ intents. Without dialogue or subtitles their motifs are expressed perhaps even more clearly than words could convey. In addition, this short form delivers the message powerfully, yet with brevity that does not bore the viewer. Our attention is kept throughout and we are forced to reckon with the key images. In a longer piece the filmmaker would have to overstate the message and perhaps add images or even dialogue to more or less fill time. However, in this short film dialogue is not used or needed. Instead sound is employed to create the mood. The music by Si Begg complements the images beautifully without using overtly stereotypical computer sound effects. Instead the music is cacophonous, dark, eerie, and yet at the same time retains a semblance of a beat (drum and bass) that is enchanting and connects the images. This combination of futuristic images coupled with unique music reminds me of Bjork videos, especially her Chris Cunningham directed video “All is Full of Love.”

However, despite the recognizable themes and appropriate music, Quietus is a true experimental film that hints at yet ultimately rejects a true narrative. This disorientation is achieved through quick cuts, extreme close-ups, and three-dimensional figures resembling triangles and coils that flash onto the screen occasionally for a few seconds. These shapes serve more to distract the viewer than offer any additional insight into any possible storyline. In addition, words that we clearly cannot read or comprehend are flashed or appear on the screen in order to tempt us to find meaning where there might not be any. All of these computer graphics and camera tricks help seal the work’s place in the experimental category.

Though there is a tone of ultimate gloom and pessimism, the meaning of this work is still open to interpretation. However, it is hard not to see this piece as art. This is what impressed me most about the film. Like a memorable photograph, each shot of this short stays with you. Each image is effective since each is beautiful, celestial, and yet monstrous. Each object is both itself and a perverted futuristic possibility of itself. With this in mind, it is possible to enjoy this art for both its possible message as well as for its mere creation and existence.

FYI: According to the filmmaker, no butterflies were hurt in the filming of this short. They were already dead when filming began.

6 comments:

Rhead said...

The link embedded in the blog didn't seem to work. I found "Quietus" here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/filmnetwork/A9653439

I also discovered that "quietus" actually means something in the broader English context. It has three definitions, all seemingly disparate: (1) Something that serves to suppress, check, or eliminate; (2) Release from life; death; (3) A final discharge, as of a duty or debt.

The single word as title probably does more to add meaning (or at least clues to the author's intention) than the BBC's synopsis of the film. And, what's more, each definition seems to comment on the film. Death feels obvious, but a suppression or a discharge of a debt require more thought.

Thoughts?

Jay said...

Fascinating short. On viewing it several times, I started to get a "Frankenstein" type vibe from it. I definitely got the impression of some type of attempt to create life being represented here. The huge apparatus is the fruit of that attempt, and its failure is marked by the disastrous outpouring of blood.

I checked out the definitions of "quietus," too, and found the most obvious one the most fitting: "at rest, quiet, dead." My own interpretation (which may be a stretch) is that the word applies in the sense that any sort of attempt (by man? - we can most likely assume this apparatus is a creation of man) to assume the godlike ability to fashion life out of nothing or out of the artificial (i.e. "chords, cables, tubes," or any other inanimate objects) is "dead, at rest, quiet" on arrival. The unraveling of the apparatus here is thus inevitable, like a law of nature.

In terms of the technical, the dominant use of tracking shots from the start of the short almost foreshadows the eventual failure, since the slow, "spreading" nature of the tracking shots mimics the slow, spreading motion of the blood that eventually drains out of the apparatus, marking its failure. Anyhow, that's my two cents. Thanks for sharing this.

Daniel C Hopkins said...

The short really does gives a future style to it, but I do believe that the real experiment is in the CGI effects hovering around the meats.
To me they seem only necessary to gain visual for the pumping of blood, but yet they can show some form of meaning as well, like the beginning of life. The flowers do seem to bloom as a sign of life so the pumping of blood before is like the construction of life, followed by death with the spill of blood.

Christine said...

Like Jay, I came away reminded of Frankenstein for a few reasons. First, the opening background sound reminded me of what giants or monsters sound like in movies(the stomping sound when the ground shakes). I though the "meat" on the tables might be hearts, with the tubes serving as artificial veins. I think the butterflies and blooming flowers could represent the value of good things that are born out of scientific experiment, while the
pool of blood is a sobering reminder of the delicate relationships between man and science. Interesting short!

ltpalm said...

I agree with all of you. I think that the butterflies are supposed to bring to mind rebirth (caterpillar to butterfly). Here something technical (the cables) and scientific (the flesh/organ) is combined to produce something beautiful and organic (the blooming flowers). However, in the end there is a malfunction and the bio-technical apparatus appears to bleed to death. It is in this ultimate ending where I believe we are to take the final meaning. So, in fact, maybe this is a Frankenstein-ian warning.

Jessica said...

Since everyone has seemed to have meaning covered, I'd like to bring up the visual beauty of this short. The director made some great choices in regards to coloring--the too-perfect white of the table contrasted with both the red of the blood in the tubs and the natural colors of the butterfly. (Blood = man? Butterfly = nature? When man tries to replicate nature you end up with a bloody table? Sorry, I said I wasn't going to seek meaning... I digress.) When the blood spills it creates a darker, almost black coloring to the butterfly which signifies death in a visually obvious but also gentle way. I think this film is very subdued for the concept, it's quiet despite the music. The dripping and spreading ofthe blood, the limp organs placed orderly on the table, the interwoven design of tubes--I have to say that even though I didn't care much for the short, it was qute stunning to look at.