Transmission

By Varun Raman and Tom Hancock | Sci-Fi
Set in the near future, Britain has become Britannia -- a nightmarish place where "together we stand alone."

Sometime in the future, Britain has become Britannia. It has also become a totalitarian state that uses torture and mind control to exert its power over people.

One man, though, has the ability to take refuge in his imagination, where he meets with his lover in a beautiful place of nature and peace. But will he be able to hold on, or will Britannia finally break through his defenses?

Directing team Varun Raman and Tom Hancock’s impeccably crafted sci-fi short takes the form of a hypnotic, dystopian psychodrama, focused as it is on its main character’s inner experience as a way to keep himself whole and separate from the dictators that seek to co-opt his heart and mind.

Taking its cues from equal parts Stanley Kubrick and Terry Gilliam, the film has echoes of classics like “A Clockwork Orange” and “Brazil” in both themes and style. Shot on rich, saturated 35mm film, the visuals eschew the clear, clean hyper-reality often associated with HD in favor of deep, vivid colors and textures, giving the short a dream-like feel.

The dream in this story, however, is more of a nightmare, focused on a confrontation between the ominously civil Dr. Sam and Leonard, who seems to be going through a process of programming. Dr. Sam is a character right out of Kubrick, with outlandish dialogue and gleeful genteel cruelty, and he enjoys inflicting Leonard throughout the process. Their sequences together are filmed to emphasize the surreal, nightmarish aspects of their time together, often punctuated with sudden edits that pull us in and out of Leonard’s increasingly tenuous hold on reality.

Yet Leonard is able to retreat into his visions of peace and bliss, opening the film visually with poetically filmed scenes of romance and natural beauty that take us outside Dr. Sam’s bunker and into what we assume is a world that has disappeared or beyond his reach. Leonard makes clear his longing for this bygone time and place, but whether or not he will be freed to go there depends on his encounter with Dr. Sam.

With its harsh, ironic juxtaposition of images and sounds — especially the swooning classical music on the score — “Transmission” feels like its own world, where time and mind runs differently, and the film itself takes its cues from the world it’s built, taking its time before it reaches its final, ultimately devastating conclusion. As an exploration of dystopia and oppression, it deftly illustrates that totalitarianism seeks to control its subjects in the deepest of ways, warping even their innermost thoughts and dreams against themselves.




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