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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sci-Fi "Souvenir": Stunning Post-Apocalyptic Visuals Make For A Unique Short Film Experience!

"SOUVENIR"
Length: 6:25
Company: Apparatus G Studios
Website: YouTube Account



"THIS IS THE END, MY FRIENDS . . . "

There just aren't that many low budget science fiction films, and there's even fewer that are any good.  The sort of story that makes for a solid sci-fi film usually require intense visuals that are simply impossible to deliver without millions of dollars for mindblowing special effects.

Well, I'm pleased to report that "Souvenir", a short film from Apparatus G Studios and Borderline Movies, is more than happy to take on all the weight of viewer expectations, and not only that, they deliver.  They actually deliver, and it only takes a few minutes of screen time.

A BALANCING ACT


You can't fit a whole lot into six and a half minutes, so I get that the story needs to be brief, and the emphasis of the film has to be the delivery -- it's not the destination, it's the journey, in other words.  But "Souvenir" takes that ball and runs with it: beyond the first scene, there is no conflict to speak of, and no character development.  In lesser hands, this would have killed the film, but the artistry displayed here by writer/director Mario Orman and director of photography/producer Gabriel Covacich elevates an otherwise pedestrian plot to a beautiful viewing experience.

Watching this film is akin to viewing a moving painting.  It's ugly and bleak, and beautiful and visonary, all wrapped up into one.  For such a short viewing experience, it packs a lot of feeling.

THE PROPER EXECUTION

"Souvenir" is a Last Man on Earth story -- literally.  From the first moment of the film, as the darkness becomes wreckage, ruin and blowing dirt and debris.  One man (Gabriel Smith) stands in the path of a victorious alien army -- and the aliens, oh the aliens, they float through the air like massive, ethereal jellyfish, and they look properly celestial and mindblowing.  For being a low budget production, the special effects in this film are absolutely astounding.

Rather than face a future as a lone human, on the run for God only knows how long, he sticks the barrel of his gun against the side of his head and closes his eyes.

Any more plot information would ruin the enjoyment of the film, but suffice it to say that things do not end so simply for the last man on Earth.

I can't begin to say how amazed I was watching this film.  The special effects, the production values, the photography, all the hard, physical aspects of "Souvenir" blew my expectations out of the park.  The audacity shown by director of photography and producer Gabriel Covacich is inspiring, and the fact that every shot is sold so well that you believe in this alternate reality is no small feat. 

But the special effects aren't everything.  Writer and director Mario Orman puts together a smooth, emotional show, with surprisingly long shots that allow the viewer to really immerse themselves in the awesome visuals.

The sound design is also top notch.  Glitch provides the soundtrack -- they blow away the end credits and nail the tone of "Souvenir" with their tense, tinkly electronic sound.  

The dream sequence was pretty clever, I have to admit -- what sort of dreams would a man trapped in a living nightmare have?  It set up the ultra bleak ending perfectly.

A ONE MAN SHOW

And speaking of tone, it wouldn't have been possible without a strong central performance.  Gabriel Smith is the lone actor in the film, and though there's no proper dialogue, he made me believe his plight from the moment I first saw him on screen.  And his reaction to the titular souvenir toward the end of the film is priceless.  He gives this show his all.  Never for a moment did he waver, or go overly theatrical.

There's only so much one actor can do with a passive character.  It's in the writing where the negatives to "Souvenir" show.  First of all, as I hinted at earlier, there is literally no conflict whatsoever, and the protagonist doesn't do anything the entire film.  Also, I don't quite understand how we went from the attempted suicide to the second half of the film.  I didn't entirely buy that.

The running time above is misleading in a way, because it's really a four minute movie -- the end credits are extended, taking up two minutes of the running time.  Some people on the YouTube page complained about this, but I actually really liked it.  Glitch's music was intriguing enough for it to provide a proper auditory epitaph for the human race.


CONCLUSION

There is a lot to like about "Souvenir", and I for one would LOVE to see this become a full length feature.  I want to learn more about these aliens, and what it meant for the world to be blown away.  I'd like to get to know our protagonist, and see how he wound up being the last example of humanity on the planet.


Overall Scores:

Writing: 2.5 / 5.  The story is bare bones and the protagonist is essentially a passive victim in the face of an unstoppable alien threat.  The dream sequence was clever and I appreciated that twist, but even so, "Souvenir" could have used a slightly bigger canvas upon which to deliver its potent images.
Directing: 4 / 5.  Mario Orman delivers a solid, mature film, proving he's perfectly capable of moving, long shots and tense, intimate sequences.
Editing: 4 / 5.  The production values were incredibly high considering the low budget, and the editing is no different.  What story there is unfolds at a good click, and the editing provides you plenty of time to drink in the bleak atmosphere.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  Glitch's song was spot on perfect for the purposes of the film.  The sound was mixed well -- nothing seemed overly loud or too quiet. 
Acting: 4 / 5.  Gabriel Smith was perfect for the role.  He conjured sympathy, sadness and fear with just his eyes.  He works wonders with what he was given.

Final Grade3.5 / 5.  "Souvenir" delivers an impressive punch for being such a short film.  It rises above what little limitations it has to bring about some phenomenal visuals and a nihilistic tone that will stick in your head for a while.  Its screenplay is somewhat limited, but "Souvenir" knows exactly what it wants to do, and it does it exceptionally well.

For more information on "Souvenir", including the full length streaming short film, check out Apparatus G's official YouTube channel!




Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!