Transmission opens with a selection of provocative, disturbing and benign images, a tip of the hat to classical conditioning or aversion therapy. The audience is being prepped for the story. Then the Radetzky March, OP 288 from Johann Strauss Sr. accompanies the title card. It is a rousing chorus that bookends the short film.
Leonard is being held in a bunker and Dr. Sam visits him, spewing largess like breathing. James Hyland as Dr. Sam is the key to this short film’s success. With only three players in the short Hyland does the bulk of the talking and as the auditor to Michael Shon’s Leonard. Filmmakers Varun Raman and Tom Hancock wrote Transmission at the height of the refugee crisis, which was followed in turn by Brexit and other geo-political kerfuffles and fuck-ups.
Dr. Sam is the embodiment of those political powers that are preying on our fears, offering no real security in return. Only when Leonard signs on the dotted line is he granted his freedom, but at what cost. Leonard escapes into his memories of his love, Joan, played by Kelby Keenan. But it is Hyland who really sells it. Enigmatic and maniacal, he lures you into comfort and just as quickly kicks the chair out from underneath you.
Transmission is a dystopian short film with winks and nods to Kubrick, Gilliam perhaps, with some of the color pastiche of dare I say it, Channel 4’s Utopia. They shot Transmission on 35mm so that richness and warmth is prevalent with even a couple scratches along the way. Minimizing movement save for some outdoor shots the camera only ever moves when Leonard finds himself in any peril.
Visually creative and stimulating, anchored by a superb performance from James Hyland Transmission brings classic dystopian cinema to the modern era.
Transmission had its International Premiere in the Celluloid Experiments program last night.
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