Notes on Short Film

Lengthy diatribe on brief cinematic experience.

Posts Tagged ‘post-apocalypse

9 (2005)

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I originally saw this film, directed by Shane Acker as his thesis project upon graduation from UCLA, before the feature film version picked up by Tim Burton came into existence. I figured now that I’m a bit wiser to the conventions of short film, it would be worth another look.

The short film was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Animated Short Film category in 2006, leading to a greater development of the project as a feature film released in 2009, including the voices of actors like Elijah Wood and John C. Reilly. The animation in the film is incomparable. The design in utterly unique, taking on a post-apocalyptic landscape from the perspective of an sentient object. (Which doesn’t at all sound like a robot-centric Disney film that came out in 2008, does it?) Still, Acker imbues his rag doll, simply named “9” with all sorts of personal qualities: friendship, sorrow, courage. Adding to his mastery of emotion, he lends all these qualities to 9 without employing any dialogue. The diagetic sounds as well as the soundtrack to the film add all the audible emotion the audience needs. Overall, I love this film more now under the influence of short film study.


Written by Alisa Hathaway

March 30, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Lessons of Darkness (1992)

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When your short film is garnering comparisons to Dante’s Inferno, you must be doing something right.

Our friend Werner Herzog’s chilling fifty-minute film uses real footage of the burning oil fields in Kuwait combined with sparse interviews and an uncomfortably detached voice-over to create a post-apocalyptic world out of reality. He splits the footage up into thirteen chapters that suggest a war on a cataclysmic scale. The film teeters off the cliff of documentary and falls into morose science fiction. Here is a fantastically succinct analysis written by Jeremy Heilman on

The ability of these images and juxtapositions to create awe is in no way reduced by the film’s basis in reality, perhaps because Herzog has always shaped the physical world to suit his storytelling needs, even in his fictional films. His tendency to find resonant metaphor in the world’s oddities is one of the prime elements of his genius, and by showing the scorched earth of Kuwaiti oil fields, he presents an almost literal, and unshakable, hell on earth.

The cinematography consists of mostly aerial shots, slowly moving through the barren wasteland humans themselves have destroyed. Fires rage, dotting the landscape almost like stars in the sky, and we see firemen working to put them out but we are removed from them. The scariest visual in the entire film, for me, were the lakes of oil reflecting the sky, acting so much like water. When we see them begin to boil, we know Herzog has brought us to hell.

Oil is so deceiving, so ugly and yet so close to being beautiful. Herzog plays with these illusions very carefully, as oil itself becomes evil, deceiving our eyes as it masks for water and blood. – Beyond the Valley of the Cinephiles

Written by Alisa Hathaway

March 14, 2011 at 10:11 am

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