Arts Listings

European Short Films

Friday October 12, 2007

Cinema 16 is a UK company bringing greater visibility to the short film through a series of DVD releases showcasing some of the best works in the form.  

The label started out in Europe in 2003 with British Short Films, followed by American Short Films and European Short Films, and this last collection has just been released in the United States. 

The two-disc set features early and rarely seen works by some of Europe’s most prominent directors, including Ridley Scott, Lars Von Trier and Christopher Nolan. Some are simple student films, others are award-winning works with high-production values and polished technique. But most of the set’s highlights are the work of lesser-known directors.  

The disc starts with Juan Solanas’ Man Without a Head (France, 2003, 18 minutes), a surprisingly moving special effects tour de force about a man who literally does not have a head and attempts to purchase one for a special date in which he will declare his love for his girlfriend. The film is rich with saturated colors that contrast with the dismal industrial landscape in which the man lives in his shabby apartment. One particularly striking scene shows the man dancing Astaire-like in his bedroom, mooning over a photograph of his beloved.  

Virgil Widrich’s Copyshop (Austria, 2001, 12 minutes) is another effects extravaganza, about a man who photocopies himself over and over until the film is seemingly populated with thousands of mirror images of himself. The film is shot in black and white and uses a choppy sort of collage-style visual scheme that replicates the look of photocopies of photocopies. The technique consisted of 18,000 photocopied digital frames, animated with the use of a 35-millimeter camera.  

Though the collection is rife with special effects, the most captivating films are more down to earth. Lynne Ramsay’s Gasman (UK, 1997, 14 minutes) is as dense with emotion and meaning as any great short story, as a young girl struggles with a gradually dawning awareness of the secret lives of adults during a night out with her father—a night that brings her into contact with another woman and other children, the connections between them all coming into focus as the evening comes to a close. 

Balilnt Kenyeres’ Before Dawn (Hungary, 2005, 13 minutes) consists of a single long take, the camera gliding smoothly around a field in the early morning hours as police descend upon an immigrant-smuggling operation. The seamless choreography of action and camera, evocative photography, and thoughtful but open-ended conclusion make for an especially powerful short subject.  

Also included is Roy Andersson’s World of Glory (Sweden, 1991, 16 minutes), a minimalist rumination on the banality of evil and its ramifications on the psyches of those who serve it. The film is widely considered one of the most significant short films ever made.