Volume 23, Issue 12 / December 2019

“Small World” Films

In this issue we place a focus on films that deal with what I call ‘small worlds’, meaning films that take place in isolated or rural locations, away from traditional society, and have an insular aesthetic of few characters, few locations or few spaces. In most cases these films are also less likely to get major exposure and are more dependent on word of mouth, festival exposure and critical support. My own essay focuses on two idyll recent examples of “small world” films, Ari Aster’s follow-up to his horror hit Hereditary, Midsommar (2019) and Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska’s first English language film, The Other Lamb (2019), with a brief inclusion of Gareth Evans’ Apostle (2018). Islands are often an idyll location for “small world” films, and is the location of the UK production, shot in Scotland The Isle (2018). James Rose interviews the creative force behind the film, married couple Tori and Matthew Butler Hart. In Adore the “small world” is only temporary, a remote beachfront clove, but the isolation this area affords affects sexual desire and conventional sexual mores. In Adore much of the film’s sexual tension occurs around an idyllic beachfront location. Shmavon Azatyan’s nuanced analysis of Adore focuses on the meaningful anesthetization of nature as a space where sexual desires are free to express themselves, in the form of two life-long mother friends who begin sexual relations with each other’s son. Adore counterpoints the beach cover natural space with its urban city counterpart, which Azatyan articulates into a duality of Kierkegaardian reflections on Aesthetics and Ethics, “where he contends that aesthetic is an immature stage in one’s life, one where an individual is concerned with their personal enjoyment; in contrast, the ethical life is based on rules established for the good of society.” According to Azatyan the beachfront clove represents “immature” personal enjoyment and desires fulfilled and the city about community building and ethical behaviour. The fourth article is unique to Offscreen, a diary like account of writer Tom Spencer’s attempt to make a short film, “The Bamboo Raft: The Near Impossibility of Making a Short Film.” It is about the thought process, creative energies, doubts, and pragmatic realities of putting together a collaborative project, even if only a low-budget short film. While the end result —drifting along a Florida river on a homemade bamboo raft— is an isolated experience, it is as much a state of mind as physical journey. The last piece is another interview with an independent director, as Matt Dupee talks with Belgian filmmaker Jonas Govaerts about his debut film, the forest-set slasher film, Welp (English title, Cub). Although not a “small world” film in the sense of Midsommar, Apostle or The Other Lamb, the film offers a unique premise for the slasher film, in its Boy Scouts and deep woods setting. (Donato Totaro, ed.)

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