09 March 2011

Andrea Arnold: Film Shorts

Andrea Arnold: 3 Short Films
By Kristin Battestella

In addition to my praise for Fish Tank, I wanted to spend a few moments discussing the three Andrea Arnold Short Films included on the Criterion Fish Tank release. While it’s somewhat strange perhaps to have 3 additional films as supplements, I’m just pleased these fine films have seen the light of DVD day, as most critically acclaimed short, foreign work is often so obscure.

Milk (1998) looks older than it is, but the dated period style works with this examination of a couple dealing with a stillbirth. Arnold moves quickly from conception to loss to ungrief with straight cuts and no fuss.  Granted, the swift pacing is because it’s a short film. However, the time makes one wonder why we make superfluous two-hour films when this kind of pain can all be captured in ten minutes. Is cohorting around with a younger man grief or is it going off the deep end? Is there that big a difference between the two when one is dealing with this kind of loss?  As she says so perfectly in the film, “Goodbye? I didn’t get to say hello.” 

2001’s Dog again presents so small a world in tight focus of one topic, and yet it’s something so understandable to all.  This film is actually very similar to Fish Tank; full of dated downtrodden dirt mixing with budding youth romance and the predatory or whore-like implications it can bring.  In its short ten minutes, Dog may seem a little random- but hey, that’s life, and the monotony and useless waste is far worse when you’re a teen with nothing but sex and crime to do. The topper of how the titular dog factors in just caps off the tragedy perfectly.

Wasp is the longest ‘short’ here at 25 minutes.  The 2003 Best Live Action Short Oscar winner begins with a barefoot catfight witnessed by four barely clothed kids with foul mouths and empty bellies all to match and gets trashier from there. Danny Dyer (Outlaw) and a picture of David Beckam on the wall are as good as it gets for these folks thanks to one seriously bad mom and only a half a bag of sugar to go round. Is it her fault? Are the kids brats? Regardless of what judgments you want to pass, the audience obviously sees no one deserves to live like this.  Disturbing as that is, such attention to ambiguous character and universal human condition makes for beautiful film.

Wow, that was short and sweet!

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