Number 1, March 1996


On this first issue of p.o.v.

Three Recent Short Fiction Films

  1. Liz Hughes, CAT'S CRADLE (Australia, 1991)
    Film data and synopsis
    An outline of Cat's Cradle
    Bodil Marie Thomsen: Rewinding - om Cat's Cradle
    Zoran Petrovic: Cat's Cradle - udechifreret
    Edvin Kau: Cat's Cradle - Filmtilskueren som levende død
    Søren Kolstrup: Cat's Cradle, en ret linie fra død til genopstandelse
    Richard Raskin: Cat's Cradle - From screenplay to film

  2. Didier Flamand, LA VIS (France, 1993)
    Film data and synopsis
    An Outline of La Vis
    Bodil Marie Thomsen: Hovedet på sømmet - om La Vis
    Zoran Petrovic: La Vis - det genkendeligt fremmede
    Edvin Kau: La Vis - Den ex-centriske billedfortælling
    Søren Kolstrup: La Vis, den rette linie er en spiral fra først til sidst
    Richard Raskin: La Vis - Making Sense of the Ending

  3. Gregor Nicholas, AVONDALE DOGS (New Zealand, 1994)
    Film data
    Bodil Marie Thomsen: Opløste akkorder - om Avondale Dogs
    Zoran Petrovic: Avondale Dogs - erindringens form
    Edvin Kau: Avondale Dogs - Hvem ser Pauls hemmelighed
    Søren Kolstrup: Avondale Dogs, den rette linie deles og føres sammen igen
    Richard Raskin: An interview with Gregor Nicholas

    English Summaries of the articles in this issue

On this first issue of p.o.v.

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Two major types of short fiction films are made today.
There are those which are designed in essentially the same way as feature films, only on a smaller scale - with fewer characters and settings, a shorter story time, simplified central plot, and absence of subplots. Since films of this type are really short features, they might be called featurettes (novellefilm in Danish). These films rely heavily on dialogue, and both in their storytelling and film craft, generally follow the principles of mainstream filmmaking, though sometimes in a stylised manner. When at their best, films of this type have the appeal and charm of a short story. Most longer short fiction films - lasting between 20 and 40 minutes - belong to this category,

Another kind of short fiction film tells its story in a way rarely found in feature films, and which allows more freedom to the filmmaker, while also demanding more of the viewer. This other type of film uses little or no dialogue (of a traditional kind), is highly metaphorical, and generally leaves the viewer wondering about the underlying meaning of the film. Often, a small object - a ring, a trophy, a screw - plays an important role in these films, not as a mere plot device (or MacGuffin) but by taking on symbolic meaning. Films of this type typically have a running time of about 12 to 19 minutes, and are more experimental than featurettes with respect to action and characterisation, camera work and editing, sound and the creation of atmosphere. When at their best, shorts of this type have the haunting quality of an elusive fable or poem.

The present issue of p.o.v. is devoted to three recent shorts of this more original type, each of which has won international recognition and has become a modern classic. The three films chosen also differ considerably from one another and in that respect, exemplify three independent directions within the genre.

Each of the films is introduced in this issue with some relevant data and a short synopsis, followed by an outline in which the action is briefly summarized, scene by scene. Each film is then studied from five different points of view.

Those of us who worked on this issue did not agree ahead of time as to how we would write about the films. Aware of our differences in background and approach, we were confident that our views on the three shorts chosen for study, would not significantly overlap (though we were prepared for that possibility and would have made the necessary adjustments had that occurred).

As it turns out, our studies of the films differ considerably from one another, as we hoped they would. In this way, each of the films is illuminated from a different angle. Where we differ in matters of interpretation and taste, the reader has the luxury of comparing alternate perceptions. And as already mentioned in our statement of purpose, our various readings are meant to complete rather than compete with one another.

We are grateful to the directors - Liz Hughes, Didier Flamand and Gregor Nicholas - for giving us permission to reproduce stills from their films, for providing pre-production scripts, and for answering questions on their films. We would also like to thank Kathleen Drumm and Jack Ingram at the New Zealand Film Commission for their help, as well as Patrick Chappuis at the French Embassy in Denmark.

This issue of p.o.v. has also been coordinated with the visit of Liz Hughes and Didier Flamand, along with another very talented filmmaker - Leslie McCleave (U.S.A.) - in March 1996, when they will participate in an International Short Film Symposium at the Department of Information and Media Science at Aarhus University. Gregor Nicholas, unable to attend because of work on a feature film, Broken English, graciously agreed to a videotaped telephone interview, to be shown at the symposium, and which is transcribed in full in this issue of p.o.v.

Despite the fact that short fiction films are among the most creative and original works of modern cinema, they are systematically marginalized or overlooked entirely in the literature on film. The present issue of p.o.v. is a modest attempt on our part to give greater attention to the genre. One or more future issues of p.o.v. may return to the short fiction film for the same reason.

We welcome feedback from our readers and would very much appreciate hearing your views on this inaugural issue of p.o.v. as well as any suggestions you might have.

Richard Raskin to the top of the page