Animal, a film directed by Lauren Adams, and written by Margaret Miller and Jeff Roberts, highlights the talented acting of Cathy Curtin, Arielle Estoria, Amy Heidt, and Dot Marie Jones. The film centers around a dystopian world and follows the characters throughout the film, as they grapple with totalitarian control and their lack of autonomy. A dystopian masterpiece, the film features appealing visual imagery, an intriguing ideological narrative, and symbolic metaphor to give the viewer a deeper understanding of authoritarian control.
Visual imagery is a defining feature of Animal. Cinematography, acting, and graphic editing join together to help transform the viewer into a dystopian world. Beautiful cinematography, as shown throughout the film, helps convey the film’s messages to the viewer and showcases the talented acting of Cathy Curtin, Ariella Estoria, Amy Heidt, and Dot Marie Jones. Graphic effects enhance the various scenery by subtly transforming the set into a dystopian universe and an intriguing nightmare. Throughout the film, simple shots showing outside of the main characters’ transportation vehicle and outdoor scenery are paired with graphic editing of red fog. The simple wheel of a vehicle is shown paired with the red fog to depict the outside of the transportation that the characters use to travel. Adding an everyday image of the wheel of a car to an interesting red element, helps visually transform the film’s world into an alternate reality.
Animal features an intriguing ideological narrative, which focuses on the elements of control and totalitarianism. Throughout the film, the characters are depicted as having minimal control over their lives, and live under the direction of an unclear entity or government. People can not drive without the guidance of a robotic voice heard over the speaker of their ship. While they drive a transportation vehicle that has wheels much like a car, the people are still denied their own autonomy and instead must listen to the direction of those over the loudspeaker. The simplistic reference of a vehicle known to give an individual autonomy, creates a jarring reality of control. This is further emphasized when the character, Pearl, played by Amy Heidt, is shown having an outburst over only having access to a small television. Pearl explains how life shouldn’t be like this, and they used to have access to large screens. Both the simplistic everyday luxuries of a television, and a car are used as items to depict control in extreme form. These stylistic choices help guide the film in its depiction of dystopian totalitarianism in an organic way.
The film offers an engaging metaphor to depict how the lack of autonomy can pit people against each other. At the beginning of the film, Arielle Estoria, who plays Minnie, can be heard over a voiceover explaining a story her Grandmother told her. The story explains how if black and red ants are in a jar together, they will live happily, but if you shake the jar, they will kill each other. This voiceover story becomes a metaphor for when a death is committed at the end of the film. Under the pressure of chaos, totalitarian control functions as the shaking of a jar, which causes people to turn on eachother like the ants. The metaphor leaves the audience pondering how it might relate to their own life.
Truly a gem, Animal offers an intriguing window into autonomy and control. Visual style paired with compelling acting helps guide the film through its overall message. Symbolism is used to convey an ideological narrative, and bring the viewer an awareness that leaves them with a better view of the world around them. This intriguing short film is a must see.
Animal screens as part of the Shorts Program at the Fall 2023 New Jersey Film Festival on Sunday, September 17. The film will be Online for 24 hours and In-Person at 5 PM in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ. Tickets are available for purchase here.