Tim of the Jungle by Nasos Gatzoulis

A high school student tries to finish a soundtrack to a horror film. But his dysfunctional parents keep fighting.

High school student Tim has a deadline for a music score he’s composing for a friend’s terrible horror film, and his friend keeps haranguing him to complete it.

But his mentally imbalanced dad and his needy mother — and their heated fights and marital discord — keep interrupting him, until tensions boil over and come to a head.

This memorably artful drama short turns domestic chaos and emotional violence into a surreal horror movie, rendered in heightened, sometimes distorted black-and-white reminiscent of film noir, German Expressionism or even the early films of David Lynch. There are touches of levity, but they’re intermingled with anger and confusion, making for a tonally complex film with a strong directorial vision.

The build-up of increasingly fractured sounds and the pacing of the tension escalates perfectly, capturing the pressures that render Tim helpless and powerless in his own home. His parents’ marriage is falling apart, and no matter how much he tries, they keep pulling him into the middle of it.

When Tim finally reaches his moment of catharsis, it upends traditional expectations, leaving the familial dynamic unresolved and Tim’s own peace of mind in question. But the almost primal power behind Tim’s final utterance is well-earned — and easily relatable, especially after spending an evening with this very dysfunctional family.

Q&A with Nasos Gatzoulis

OMELETO: How did you become interested in filmmaking? What drew you to film specifically?

NASOS GATZOULIS: When I was 17, I was hanging out with my sister and she pointed out a friend of hers saying that he’s a film director. It was the first time that I thought that making movies could be a profession. That’s when I had a moment of epiphany, for no particular reason at all, that I wanted to become a film director as well. It’s not that I could justify why I felt it, but the feeling was strong and it was unquestionable that I should do it, no matter what anyone else would say. So, after a few days I got a pen and a notebook and just started writing whatever came to my head. For some reason that I can’t explain either, I fell in love with all of the process of making a movie. I just feel comfortable when I’m making movies. Even though it sounds like a cliche, I guess it’s some form of escapism from real life, which is usually a pain in the ass.

OMELETO: What makes a film or story good or interesting to you?

NASOS GATZOULIS: I like movies that push the boundaries on one way or another. I like movies that surprise me and make me think about them, not because they questioned my value system necessarily but because the movie itself, its images for some mysterious reason stayed with me. And that usually happens when a filmmaker goes either too far with his imagination or too deep.

OMELETO: How do you find your inspiration — or keep inspired when the process of getting a film made gets difficult or your energy or creativity feel sapped?

NASOS GATZOULIS: Watching movies, listening to music, reading books or getting feedback on my work by smart people that I trust.

OMELETO: What films or stories have been most inspiring or influential to you, and why?

NASOS GATZOULIS: If I go by directors, I would say Lars Von Trier because of his honesty and totally uncompromising vision. Stanley Kubrick, because of how much he pushed the boundaries in every aspect of filmmaking, while making commercial movies. And of course all the directors who have changed the form or have invented their own way of telling stories visually like Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Giorgos Lanthimos, Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino and Gaspar Noe.

OMELETO: What do you want audiences to take away from your body of work?

NASOS GATZOULIS: I really cannot answer to this question I think. Whatever they take they’re welcome to take it with them and its their responsibility to do so. But since they’re taking something with them, no matter what that is, that is all that matters to me.

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