A SHORT STORY ABOUT A SHORT FILM

My A SHORT STORY ABOUT A SHORT FILM gets a longish review in Casual Debris’ review of UNTHOLOGY No.1

“A Short Story about a Short Film” by Ashley Stokes. 7/10

“A Short Story about a Short Film” is a great example of how a structurally different story can be both entertaining and act a proper medium for its thematic content. Outwardly the story is bland, as it can be summed up as a pretentious and insecure young filmmaker struggling with his obsession with his ex-girlfriend, and through that obsession achieves an important moment of self discovery. Yet there is depth in the unity between narrative and structure. The story is a screenplay of a short film inset with a series of footnotes. The short film emulates the great shorter films of mid-century Eastern Europe, while the footnotes are by the filmmaker as he has pieced together his own kind of director’s commentary, and uses that commentary to reveal the behind the scenes drama amid the filming of the short. The idea of introducing footnotes is not original, but this is likely the first time I’ve read a story in which the footnotes act as extras on a DVD, a concept which I like since I’m a sucker for good extras. Overall it’s well presented, particularly as the story manages to create various layers and connections between the short film and the self-indulgent love story, making it engaging and often funny.

Our filmmaker Stasi Lloyd is not very likeable. He is weak and self-interested, obsessed with film and with his former girlfriend-cum-former lead in his debut film, Kaliningrad. What begins as a pretentious undergraduate film project of a pretend totalitarian society replete with its spies, its mysterious women and its relentless clacking typewriters, not to mention vodka and onions, the little film turns out to be little more than a dramatic love triangle, emulating real-life behind-the-scene events. The entire thing is ridiculous, but in a funny, engaging and even thought-provoking way. There are a myriad themes interconnecting the fantasy of film and of the real-life drama, as love and lust are secretive, even persecuted (by a jealous third party), and the real life director becomes the shady spy of his own film, sneaking into his former lover’s parents property, taking the entire film crew to the vicinity as an excuse to be there in the first place. The dark film society he portrays is illustrative of his own dark, guarded nature; he tries to rationalize the situation by being removed and understanding, but is essentially driven by a stronger form, that of raw emotion, so that the melodrama of life is so much greater than that of film. And what is it all for, since like the film, life too is short. I was surprised, though pleasantly, that the narrator gains some insight through these straining experiences.

 

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