This is interesting. There is a moment in Gravity where Sandra Bullock’s stranded astronaut manages to get a radio connection with someone on The Earth below. Aningaaq is a seven minute short film showing this scene from the point of view of the person on the other end of the line. It is directed by Jonas Cuarón, the Gravity director’s son and co-writer and has the same sensibility as its parent movie.
Like Gravity, Aningaaq is perfectly paced; setting the scene in an unhurried manner and it concentrates on the human beings at the centre of the action. Unlike Gravity that action is not tense and exciting, it is slow and a little random but that is perfect for the frustration of the scene it accompanies. The shots of an Inuit fisherman simply going about his activities, happily unaware of the nightmarish circumstances of the person he is talking to, serves as both juxtaposition and compliment to Gravity. He is not desperately fighting for survival, he is just going about his job but his environment is as stark, cold and potentially life threatening as that of the other speaker and unlike her it won’t (one way or another) all be over in an hour or so.
Aningaaq was originally made as an extra feature for the Gravity Bluray, a deleted scene that hasn’t actually been cut from anywhere. This is curious in itself as it shows how studios are investing in extra material for DVDs and Blurays in the light of web streaming and downloads. The film has apparently become popular at festival screenings though and has now been released online (it is easy to see who is winning the format war, disc or dotcom). Warner Brothers has also entered it into Oscar contention meaning it could be a proud night for Mama Cuarón come February but this also highlights how the web is giving short films a better audience than they have ever enjoyed before. Even as a film nerd I’ve not always heard of the films nominated in the shorts category, let alone seen them.
There is another big way in which the existence and wide release of Aningaaq is significant. This little movie may well pave the way for other film makers to easily extend their vision and stories. It used to be that great little moments had to be cut from feature films as they ruined the pace and didn’t advance the story but now there are ways of extending your story without extending your running time.
Marvel studios have been doing this for a little while, not just with their regular mid and post credit sequences but through their short ‘One Shot’ films that populate their DVDs and inevitably YouTube. Most of these have been little stand alone curiosities that pick up on the story without moving it on but one of them, ‘The Consultant’, may be an exception to this. It is positioned chronologically between Iron Man 2 and Hulk and sorts out some confusion surrounding Tony Stark’s appearance in the latter as this is not the order in which the films were released. Generally though these shorts just show minor characters carrying out their business around the main events of a film much like Aningaaq. (The Marvel Agents of SHIELD TV show does this on a larger scale.)
Clearly this idea has great potential. No more do audiences have to struggle on with plot holes or unanswered questions. If you want to know how Bruce Wayne got back into a locked down and terrorist ruled Gotham then you could be just a quick Google search away from story satisfaction. Why doesn’t Ben Kenobi recognise R2 D2 after the events of Episodes I-III? YouTube can show you! Who is manufacturing all those the sentient vehicles in Cars? Ask Jeeves. The truth could be out there.
If this becomes habit then directors will no longer have to depend on funding for sequels or director’s cuts to finish or tidy up their vision and we won’t have to buy the Special Edition DVD to get the full picture. Our relationships with films will not have to end when we leave the screening, we might be able to carry on with it as soon as we get home. With the web release of Aningaaq, I think Cinema just became a slightly different animal.
Aningaaq is currently available to watch here: http://m.hollywoodreporter.com/entry/view/id/4369