Where Am I? (Critique)

Short Critique
Where Am I?
Where Am I?Director: Francois Rousseau
Expected Rating: PG due to one instance of language
Distribution: Self-distributed
Budget: $400
Genre: Sci-Fi
Running Time: 12 minutes 59 seconds
Release Dates: June 2012
Website: http://www.facebook.com/MindFieldFilm
Watch Film: Click Here
Critique Issue: #83 (01/13)
Critiqued By: Monika DeLeeuw-Taylor
Final Score: 8.7

Bill (Daniel Munns) is lost in his own mind. Images of his wife and their life together flash before his eyes, but he keeps getting interrupted by mysterious voices and, curiously enough, an image of himself that keeps changing costume. He thinks there was some sort of accident, but the real truth is much more terrifying.

Content

The movie is a bit confusing at first, since it is a compilation of images that don’t initially make sense. Initially, I thought that Bill was in some sort of coma, and the image of himself that keeps appearing in different clothing was some sort of collection of memories. This sort of makes the film initially appear almost like an art film, which was a little bit frustrating. But since the film is short, waiting for the payoff wasn’t that big of a deal, and it was certainly worth it.

Warning! Spoilers Ahead!

It is not until the end of the film that the viewer realizes that Bill has not been in just any accident; he is in fact in outer space on some sort of mission of exploration, but he has lost communication with Mission Control, and has only 20 minutes of air left. The story is almost a visual representation of the David Bowie song, “Major Tom,” which I thought was very creative.

Visual Look

Visually, the film is really quite beautiful. The movie opens with what look like stock images of clouds and nature. They match with the music very well, and are great to look at. There are images of Bill with his wife, as well as one very peaceful scene of him standing on a beach and watching the ocean. This scene had really beautiful coloring, and was edited together perfectly with a very ethereal music. Many of the images of Bill’s memory have a sort of computer screen outline around the edge. This led further to my thought that Bill was in a coma, and the screen was some sort of futuristic device, through which he could view his memories. It turns out later to be the edge of his view inside his helmet, as well as a screen through which he can view his instruments and an artificial intelligence that looks like him and interacts with him.

There are also quite a few extreme close-up shots of Bill’s eyes and mouth throughout the film. Not only was the actor incredibly expressive for all of these shots, but they added a lot of suspense to the film. The close-ups give the audience a sense of how Bill was feeling, as well as the addition of many different colored lights that flashed on and past his face, further leading to the mystery of where he was. Apparently, the crew created a special rig for these shots using a large magnifying glass. These shots looked great – I never would’ve suspected such simple technology!

Many of the images of earth seem a bit over-saturated with color. It looked odd to me, however, the choice could have been done on purpose. The over-saturation does give a feeling of more life to Bill’s memories of earth, as opposed to the emptiness of space where he currently is.

"Ground Control to Major Tom. Commencing countdown, engines on. Check ignition and may God's love be with you ..."

"Ground Control to Major Tom. Commencing countdown, engines on. Check ignition and may God's love be with you ..."

Use of Audio

The score of this film is composed of a lot of great pieces that, even though some are very different, all mesh together with the visuals. It starts out with a sort of techno beat, and later transitions to more ethereal music. My personal favorite was the song over the closing credits, which was both beautiful and hauntingly sad, so it matched the film’s mood perfectly. I’m not sure whether it was a coincidence that the film matched the song “Major Tom,” so closely, but I think it would also have been nice to have used a similar melody to subtly underscore the film.

The only audio issue that I noticed was on several instances of dialogue. In a few conversations that Bill remembers having with his wife Anna and his friend, their voices have an odd echoing sound to them. I don’t think was done intentionally, as the sound seems to stay through several scenes, and then disappear. I’m not sure what could be causing this effect, but it might be a good idea to either try to adjust the audio in post, or ADR it. For information on the basics of ADR, check out this Microfilmmaker article.

Use of Budget

This film’s budget was only $400. One hundred of which was spent on food (always important!) and the rest for a collapsible reflector, green screen, and homemade soft boxes. I also noticed that the director used sound effects from the website Freesound, which is a great resource for micro-filmmakers.

All in all, a lot of work seemed to have been put into this movie, especially to keep it on a tight budget. There could be more work done on some of the dialogue audio, and possibly on some of the visuals as well.

"This is Major Tom to Ground Control, I'm stepping through the door. And I'm floating in a most peculiar way. And the stars look very different today..."

"This is Major Tom to Ground Control, I'm stepping through the door. And I'm floating in a most peculiar way. And the stars look very different today..."

Lasting Appeal

Few things have captured human imagination like outer space, and we have always been compelled to explore it. But we often forget about the dangers of exploring such an unforgiving world, and what it must have been like for the people whose lives were lost in the process.

Even though this was a short film, and a bit obscure in its structure, “Where Am I?” is a good example of a beginner work. It was very entertaining to watch, and I’m looking forward to seeing more from it’s director.

Closing Thoughts

“Where Am I?” speaks to the personal nature of exploration – for every Neil Armstrong and Felix Baumgardner, there is a Gus Grissom or Valentin Bondarenko. But despite any failures, these men still deserve our respect for being willing to take such dangerous chances.

“…Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles 
I’m feeling very still 
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go 
Tell my wife I love her very much (she knows!) 
Ground Control to Major Tom 
Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong 
Can you hear me, Major Tom? 
Can you hear me, Major Tom? 
Can you hear me, Major Tom?”

Breakdown
Content
8.9
Visual Look
8.3
Use of Audio
8.4
Use of Budget
9.0
Lasting Appeal
8.9

Overall Score

8.7

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About Monika Taylor

The author of half a dozen screen plays, two novels, and a proficient camera-woman in her own right, Monika DeLeeuw-Taylor is Microfilmmaker's lead writing analyst and one of our top film critics. When she's not writing a critique for Microfilmmaker, she's writing novels and screenplays. Most recently, she helped produce on Viking Productions' Depleted: Day 419.

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