Notes on Short Film

Lengthy diatribe on brief cinematic experience.

Wasp (2003)

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This twenty-three minute, Academy-Award winning short film directed by Andrea Arnold is also featured on the Cinema 16 European Short Film Collection. Though bleak and heart-wrenching (watching Winter’s Bone this year gave me the same feeling) it is shot beautifully and the narrative speaks volumes as it says little. Slant magazine blogger Rob Humanick writes of the film’s namesake:

The titular bug is first glimpsed during an understated scene in Zoë’s ramshackle apartment; while the youngest toddler cries after having dropped his pacifier onto the floor, the buzzing insect vainly attempts to pass through a closed window. In this way, the wasp comes to represent the poverty-stricken protagonists in their struggle against invisible social and financial structures. Unfortunately, Wasp ultimately sidesteps such readings.

Viewing the wasp as mirroring Zoe’s will to escape her life makes the scene where the bug endangers her baby’s life much more heartbreaking. Is the director trying to tell us Zoe’s lifestyle is killing her children? That Zoe herself is slowly killing them?

Zoe represents an entire generation of too-young mothers without a partner or parents to rely on for help. We see her children idolizing and emulating their mother as children do, in the scene when they all flip off the neighbors. We even see one of the younger girls playing mother to her doll, we assume copying the style of motherhood Zoe has exhibited. Arnolds does an amazing job of developing these characters in twenty-three minutes. She also establishes the important relationship between the children and food, something they seem to be lacking. Fin de Cinema blogger Joe Bowman wrote a worthy article establishing Zoe and her kids’ relationship to consumerism:

For Zoë, the Beckhams represent the same thing, the false pinnacle of desire: fashionable motherhood, physical perfection in marriage.

I definitely recommend reading his analysis focusing on their fixation with the David and Victoria Beckham.

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Written by Alisa Hathaway

March 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm

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