The World According to Shorts
Six countries, Six films, One ticket.
Six countries, six films, one ticket. That’s what the trailer promises and that’s what is delivered. Simple. At a runtime of just over ninety minutes, averaging about fifteen minutes per film. Among the most memorable films featured in the collection are Poland’s Antychryst and Australia’s We Have Decided Not to Die.
Antychryst opens with four boys lying with their bicycles in a barren field. One boy, Szafran, sits up and tells the others he has an idea—to run barefoot through a field of thistles. And so begins a series of sadistic and masochistic events that he leads them through into the late afternoon, each increasing in severity. As the events continue—including breaking rocks against their heads, burying each other up to the neck, and biting into live fish—Szafran reveals to the others that he is in fact the antichrist. Of course, it’s anyone’s guess, including the viewer, if he is telling the truth, but if the child is not possessed by some demonic force, he is definitely not right in the head. Somewhat reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, the film shows a group of children lacking adult supervision, left to their own devices, in a downward spiral of destruction. One child leads the others in his own increasingly destructive behavior. The others blindly follow, perhaps out of ignorance, perhaps out of fear. Only one has the courage to stand up against Szafran. Antychryst delivers a powerful blow with all the ambition of a feature film, but at a runtime of just under half an hour, it falls short only in terms of length.
We Have Decided Not to Die breaks away completely from any semblance of narrative filmmaking, but is nonetheless awe-inspiring in its own right. The film takes the viewer through three visually stunning rituals, each testing, and perhaps defying, the limits of the human body. Helmed by writer/director/producer Daniel Askill, best known for his work in music videos and commercials, this is his first and only film credit to date, though it is hard to say he has a future in feature films, given the purely experimental nature of his work.
La Perra tells the story of a bored middle-aged Chilean couple who make up stories about their hardworking maid stealing from them in order to satisfy their own twisted sexual fetish. United We Stand satirically looks at a group of elderly Norwegian militants who find themselves stuck in a bog and chant their anthem as they slowly and nonchalantly sink to their deaths. The Old Woman’s Step follows an elderly woman in a Brazilian fishing community as she travels to town to sell a chicken she has raised in order to buy her fisherman grandson a birthday gift with the money.
The collection culminates with the black-and-white animated western Ring of Fire, which I can only describe as Fear and Loathing meets the Wild West meets the Playboy Mansion. Two humanoid gunslingers wander aimlessly through the desert in a drug-induced, dreamlike state, encountering a myriad of bizarre characters while experiencing sexual awakenings. Epic in vision but lacking in scale. Accompanied by a haunting score and eerie voiceover narration, which also serves as the narration featured in the trailer.