“BOXED is a journey of a man named Andy Whitman as he descends into madness while attempting to fill his inner void through consumerism only to be consumed by the very void he is trying to fill.”
The audience sees Andy within the confines of his small New York City apartment, full of miscellaneous, impulsive purchases. His days consist of watching TV, eating junk food, and buying the latest and greatest products seen in television commercials. The amber hues used to color Andy and his apartment are reminiscent of 1970s films, representing a time when American consumerism surged. The viewer remains in the dark about when BOXED takes place – the color amber represents the 1970s, Seinfeld playing in the background represents the 1990s, The Big Chill movie poster represents the 1980s, and The Monster That Challenged The World poster represents the 1950s. Virk suggests through the diegesis and Andy’s collection that this level of consumerism has been prominent in the United States for decades, and Americans’ obsession with materialism is ingrained in the culture.
We are first introduced to Andy opening a package containing a red inflatable lounge chair. He examines it as if it's a delicate piece in a museum before aggressively jumping on it to sit in front of the TV. This is indicative of the inevitable result of heavy consumerism - the novelty of a new item wears off extremely quickly before it joins the other objects considered “junk.” It’s not long before fragments of chips cover Andy’s brand-new chair.
Andy is featured in every shot of BOXED – Virk’s choice to focus entirely on Andy throughout the entirety of the film attests to the filmmaker’s message. Virk purposely doesn’t show any of the programs Andy is watching but instead forces us to watch his reactions. This allows the audience to hold up a mirror to itself and question its own materialistic tendencies as well as America’s fast-paced consumer culture.
We then see Andy working his 9-5, feverishly typing code. At exactly 5 p.m., he stops working and returns to his beloved inflatable chair, which he can’t seem to get comfortable in, suggesting that once the high of the novelty wears off, he is left with a simple, low-quality chair. There’s also a scene where he is intimate with a life-size inflatable doll, that he subsequently throws out once he hears an advertisement for the “Clapmaster” on the TV – the next new and exciting product. His materialistic obsession is reignited, and mania unfolds as Andy anxiously awaits the Clapmaster's arrival. After its failure to arrive after 30 minutes, spit flies from his mouth as he complains to the delivery company.
The cinematography in BOXED adds to the odd and uncomfortable nature of the film, especially during Andy’s sequences of rage; the Dutch angles and extreme close-ups are meant to make the audience feel uneasy while emphasizing the absurdity of Andy’s reactions. We ask ourselves, “Is it really a big deal if it’s late?” despite being furious with Amazon when our own packages don’t arrive as scheduled.
Once the Clapmaster finally arrives at his apartment, his anger subsides. He is mesmerized by the box; the novelty seems to sedate him, and he is laser-focused on finding the Clapmaster within the large box. He climbs inside and becomes trapped inside the box – the consumer has become the consumed.
Andy Whitman, a human manifestation of American consumerism, forces the viewer to consider their own materialistic tendencies. In a world where online shopping and instant gratification seem to control our lives, we must separate ourselves from the reality of consumerism.
BOXED screens at the 2023 New Jersey International Film Festival on Friday, June 2 as part of Shorts Program #1. The film will be Online for 24 Hours and In-Person at 7 PM in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ. Tickets are available for purchase here. BOXED Director Alam Virk will be at this screening along with a few of the other filmmakers to do a Q+A session with the audience after the show.