Sunday, January 14, 2007

THE CITY WITHOUT WINDOWS (JULIEN FONFREDE & KARIM HUSSAIN, 2002)



aka La Derniere voix

The City Without Windows is an allegorical short film that manages to get across a relevant point within its thirteen minute run time. In a dystopian future, the windows of every building have disappeared without explanation. Aside from that, a heavy rain has begun and never let up. Due to the nonstop rain, metal and wood have been rendered useless, and there is no longer an elemental divide between the indoor and outdoor. Also due to the rain, any and all electronic devices have become obsolete, and disease is spreading. The main downfall of the disease is that it destroys vocal chords, meaning that humans can no longer speak.

Since humans can no longer speak, and all electronic devices are essentially extinct, communication has become a major problem. Paper pulp dissolves almost immediately, so the only form of communication available is to carve a succinct message into anothers flesh. Since it is also almost eternally dark, lighter skinned bodies are ideal for this communication. This has rendered a shift in race relations, but the light skinned are dutiful to their job, as they are now the carriers of language, a very noble cause. The short film depicts an handsome man carving a message into a very pale woman, leading her to a woman, and revealing the message. The message he carves relates to love and intimacy, and the desperation and hopelessness that has resulted.

The film is very quietly successful in it's commentary on communication, and intimacy. As the voice over notes, man now has to be completely honest, as it takes the skin too long to heal if a mistake is made. Communication is thought out fully and there is no room in what's left of society for lies. It's seems that the lack of dishonesty is starting to make intimacy itself difficult, and that blow alone is a very loaded one, handled nicely (the film never approaches being preachy).

Decked out in the expressionistic lighting schemes that Hussain is fond of (which has obviously been acquired from the likes of Bava and Argento), the film plays out almost rhythmically, with the unending rain providing the pulse of the hopeless city's heart. The film also manages to pack some impressive gore effects, treated without a sense of sensationalism as to not detract from the film. The production design all around is great, and David Kristian (the man responsible for the sound design of Subconscious Cruelty, Hussain premiere feature film) provides beautifully melancholy sound design for the short.

Fans of the "philosophy through gore" elements of Hussain's Subconscious Cruelty will no doubt be slightly let down, but if you're in it for more than striking visuals, there's lots of interest to be found here.

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