A mysterious box turns the life of an inmate into a dead end hallucinatory trip.
0 – 5 | 2013 | Special FX | Supernatural | Thriller | UK
A new prisoner has just arrived in his cell in a macabre Russian jail. He’s attempting to settle in and get comfortable with is his new roommate. The unwelcoming cell-mate warns the newcomer not to open the mysterious red box resting on the bed. Of course, he’ll do the opposite, and the content will be revealed as an exact replica the cell. As the new inmate starts to compliment the artwork, the unthinkable happens: his own hand, that he just pushed in the box, will appear, gigantic, before his eyes. This is the moment when everything stops making sense, and the story takes an hallucinatory, illogical and claustrophobic turn.
Room 8 represents a peculiar type of branded content, as it’s one of the winning shorts of the Bombay Sapphire’s Imagination Series, a creative contest in which directors from all over the world were asked to develop a short film from a script penned by Oscar-winning screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher. The five finalists premiered at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. Each director was given total freedom in developing their own script, and James W. Griffiths used the simple idea of a box that can not be opened to create a short that masterfully combines thriller, horror and science fiction.
Stylistically and thematically, the work owes much to Chris Nolan, whose 1997 short “Doodlebug” has some clear similarities with Room 8. David Lynch also comes to mind, thanks to the alienating atmosphere, the disintegration of logic and the “box within a box” theme, that we had already seen in Mulholland Dr., also a tribute to another great filmmaker, being explicitly inspired by Bunuel’s Un chien Andalu.
Film inheritances aside, this is definitely one of the most innovative short films out there. The visual effects are impeccable, and the constant plot twist, in addition to the already surreal world presented before our eyes, make it impossible to look away. In little more than 5 minutes Griffiths managed to leave a mark perhaps deeper than the one left by many feature films. There is no room for digressions or investigation upon great themes. One may wonder whether the choice of setting the story in a cell could be a metaphor for the inmates’ lives and the inescapability of an existence behind the bars, but it doesn’t matter. The immediacy and brilliance of the idea presented here are everything a short film should be: a brief foray into a world that may transcend logic, but that must necessarily stick with the viewer.
Director James W. Griffiths is one of the young talents of british videomaking. His first short film “Splitscreen : A Love Story” has won many awards, and there are already very strong stylistic traits in his works, such as a strong sense of composition, extreme care to cinematography and a precise use of music. Room 8 is his latest work, and won the prestigious BAFTA award for Best Short Film at the beginning of 2014.
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