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.