Daria Gamliel for Cinetalk.net
In the olden days people liked to read a book at a leisurely pace, or watch the one or two channels offered on non-cable television. TV then became ridden with commercials and multiple channels. The clicker gave a means to cut through the fluff and get to interesting content at the tap of a button. Following the MTV generation, where images moved more and more quickly on screen, we’ve become accustomed to sharp editing and instant gratification.
The modern generation only knows quickly-moving imagery. Short attention spans and fast fingers scroll through so much information on a daily basis. Anna Zaytseva used this as an aesthetic choice and pacing mechanism in her first feature, #Blue_Whale, about a deadly Internet game. To older audiences, the scenes and dialogue might play out so fast, they can be dizzying. Viewers over the age of 35 may need extra time to register all the high-speed text and frenetic camerawork. But since most of us are watching Fantasia‘s films online and On Demand, it’s handy to have those pause and rewind buttons.
The rhythm throughout is very intense. The P.O.V. cameras on the actors and the speedy onscreen typing create a claustrophobic world where the viewer might find it hard to catch their breath. Zaytseva was likely aware and used this to her advantage to build on this intensity. Much of the action is presented through cell phones, video conferencing, teenagers’ Facebook and selfie collections. Visual cheats are used to pull certain scenes together, even if logically we would not expect to see, for instance, both the killer and the victim in the same tiny cell phone screen frame while the victim is on the run. The overall effect creates an immediacy that feels like the viewer is right inside the action.
#Blue_Whale wears its influences on its sleeve, but then it soars even further. Yes, it borrows from Ringu (Nakata Hideo, 1998) with its creepy video, and ubiquitous long black haired ghostgirl. There’s even a well. It also gives a nod to The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980), and Zaytseva herself has even mentioned The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez, 1999) was an early influence on her filmmaking. But Blair Witch is twisting in its grave wishing it had been able to achieve what Zaytseva has achieved.
Though the story isn’t completely innovative, the mechanical aspects of the filmmaking make it a very thrilling watch. Tight performances by the cast don’t hurt, either.
By now, most parents are aware that the Internet can be a dangerous place for their children. Predators and psychos go to great lengths to corrupt, harm and even kill. However, as seen in Caught in the Net (Barbora Chalupova and Vít Klusák, 2020), the Internet is not the problem. It’s the society we live in that harms youngsters, often by using their own fears against them.
#Blue_Whale follows the footsteps of other films inspired by Internet-provoked crimes, and it’s a wild ride.
Fantasia Film Festival 2020 runs from August 5th to August 25th. 2020.
#Blue_Whale – On Demand from Thursday. August 19th, 9AM until Friday, August 20th, 9AM.