If there is one thing that Fantasia 2008 has taught me, it is that there are so many, many compelling nooks and crannies for the post-apocalyptic film yet to mine despite the slew of them over the past few years. If anything, these films are getting better and better as we go along!
From Inside is a bleak tale of Cee's journey (heavy with child and the anxieties that that entails) through a post-apocalyptic nightmare-landscape which cannot help but blend in with her own memories of the past and fears of the future. A surreal steam-engine train barrels through the post-nuclear desert away from a non-existent civilization and towards nothing in particular either. The important thing, perhaps, is that the train still running; even if the inhabitants are estranged from the mysterious engineers who run the metal dragon and are possibly future fuel for the fires that maintain forward inertia. The film is not shy about putting imagery of babies being tossed into the fire, a holocaust-edged train-car full of naked and rotting corpses or a still-borne calf being birthed as the mother is being chopped up for beef cutlets in the abattoir-car. The rivers and lakes outside are rendered a silky-red and occasionally the inhabitants of this world will paddle across its bloody surface to mine half-submerged homes for survival sustenance. It is a testament to director (and visual artist) John Bergin's skill and restraint (yes, I'm serious) that these images are not particularly exploitative and always serve his vision for Cee's story.
The film has ambitious aims to play in the virtuoso existential territory occupied by Chris Marker's La Jetée and Chris Lavis & Maciek Szczerbowski's Madame Tutli-Putli. It almost makes it there too, only burdened by a few too many minutes and a need to repeat itself one time too many. Each and every frame is a gorgeously rendered juxtaposition of both modern and retro (the CGI animation of the train is primordial enough to suggest a dawn or a twilight of an age) as well as a blend of story board stillness and animated momentum. Perhaps with a delicate scalpel, this film could be sliced down about 10 minutes to a masterpiece. From Inside is nevertheless a fully immersive film; a nightmare to get lost into with grim delight. While the metaphors and symbols are worn fairly prominently on the films sleeve, the way they dance on the surface of the cloth and swirl amongst the fibers makes for a hypnotic blur. When the apocalypse is upon us, we turn to our children mixed with love, dread and fear and this is starkly rendered here with a minimal production staff (essentially 5 people are credited to the picture, and likely only a single computer). Much like La Jetée, the film is told with sound effects but mainly advanced with voice-over against still-shots (which Bergin also animates select portions for emphasis). Corryn Cummins' monotone and bleak voice synchronizes with the visuals quite well; and shines during a brief moment of hope captured with a blue sky and innocent eyes.
Fans of Cormac McCarthy's The Road take note, here is the feminine version, and it is alive and kicking.