I never would have thought that a camera zooming in and panning out over and over across an old-timey-looking photograph would be such a fascinating, spooky little short.
After a series of newspaper clippings, we as the viewer are invited to take a close look at a single photograph of four people in a forest clearing. One man is kneeling, possibly tying his shoelace or fixing something on the ground; another in sunglasses is waving at the camera; a woman is holding a baby, and an older man is looking at the car to their right.
At first glance, it just looks like a regular 1920s-era photo of a family or group of friends who are headed off on a road trip or something (there’s a house in the background behind the trees).
But as the camera rolls in and out, poring over the photo over and over again, little details start to emerge, and parts of the photo, especially the odd facial expression, morph as our understanding of the photo becomes clearer.
It’s all quite spooky and gothic and menacing, in a vintage, sinister kind of way. A jump-scare at the end mars it a little, but it’s a minor low point at the end of an innovatively-designed piece. The way in which we’re shown the photo over and over is like a pop-up book; the forest’s trees don’t just get glossed over, they become 3D; we weave in and out of the branches and around cawing crows. We peer into the car’s backseat, zoom in and around what the kneeling man is really doing and, even on subsequent viewings, can still pick up new details, which is a nice touch for a short based on the hidden details that any photograph could be hiding.
A picture telling a thousand words, indeed.