A still from Danse Macabre
A still from Danse Macabre

Danse Macabre (2009)

Director: Pedro Pires

This eight–minute short that was adjudged the Best Canadian Short Film at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival is one of the most poetic and grotesque things you will find on YouTube. It is a delicate, if unnerving, and of course fictional, account of a dead body inside an embalming chamber. The Kubrickian visuals show the lifeless body getting a wash, blood slowly being drained out, and then it starts to languidly writhe and stir on the autopsy table… rigor mortis contortions turn into an erratic and macabre, but breathtakingly beautiful ballet. The loneliness of this last dance is heightened by the interspersing of the flickering images of a life well lived.

I’m here (2010)

Director: Spike Jonze

This 31-minute short from the director of Being John Malkovich and Her, is a heartbreakingly beautiful and bizarre love story loosely based on Shel Silverstein’s children’s book The Giving Tree, set in a futuristic retro world where robots and humans cohabit. Shot in a washed out modern-day Los Angeles, the short has a pop video vibe and is a simply-told, poignant tale of how far one would go for love. Sheldon, a robot, is a nerd living a clockwork solitary life. He finds his match is a free-spirited woman, Francesca (erm…robot) and the story traces how he slowly and bit by bit, becomes her, quite literally.

Next Floor (2008)

Director: Denis Villeneuve

An opulent banquet. Eleven privileged diners. On the menu is an exquisite variety of meat, cooked and raw. They are ravenously stuffing their face with the meat. Gluttony and greed have wiped away every shred of civility. They keep gorging the food as the waiters keep a non-stop supply. The meat fest is interrupted as the floor beneath gives away owing to the burgeoning weight of the food on the table. The feast moves to or rather is plonked to the floor below. This continues, reflecting how wanton gluttony leads to the downfall of man with each floor symbolising stages of hell. This surreal, satirical, grotesque and deeply allegorical nine-minute scathing social commentary, replete with some nauseating food porn sequences and almost zero dialogues, is a masterclass in short filmmaking and reminds one of Buñuel’s movies. The absurdist drama by the maker of movies like Incendies and Prisoners, who started his career with short films, has bagged a whopping number of international awards including the prestigious ‘Grand Prix Canal +’ for Best Short at Cannes 2008.  

Six Shooter (2006)

Director: Martin McDonagh

The Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri director forayed into filmmaking with this 27-minute black comedy that went on to win the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film. Shot almost entirely inside a moving train, this grim tale has all the essential elements that would go on to become part of his trademark style — the crackling dialogues, the concise character development, the intermittent spurts of blood and gore, the macabre humour, and a dwelling on the cathartic power of death. In fact, it is essentially a film about death and how it impacts life… and how at the end of the day, it is all a big twisted joke. The stunningly written material by the playwright-turned-screenwriter and director is steeped deep in his Irish existentialism and goes to some very dark places but the short duration makes sure you are hooked throughout. Also, a must-watch for the breakout performance by the brilliant Rúaidhrí Conroy. The son of Brendan Conroy, who also stars in the short, reminds one of the young Leonardo DiCaprio.

Swimmer (2012)

Director: Lynne Ramsay

This Lynne Ramsay piece that won the Best Short Film BAFTA was 2012 London Olympics and can be regarded as an ode to the British waterways. The Scottish filmmaker, best known for the feature film We Need to Talk About Kevin, follows a long-distance swimmer as he makes his way through various British landscapes capturing fleeting vignettes of daily life as he passes by. The swimmer and the landscape keep swapping spots to become the protagonist as the gaze changes. Shot is sumptuous black and white, it is a hauntingly beautiful visual poem replete with delicious detailing and stunning camerawork by DOP Natasha Braier. In just about 13 minutes, Ramsay creates a timeless and otherworldly space proving why she is considered as one of the most ingenious filmmakers around right now.

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