Directed by Parallel Madness
I dunno about you, but sometimes I think the modern world’s getting more like the prelude to a dystopian novel. Whether it’s the threat of nuclear war, an erosion of human rights or the threat of religious fanatics, it’s hard not to feel Armageddon approaching one news story at a time. And then, on this small, rainy isle, there’s a little thing called Brexit round the corner.
Regardless of one’s political persuasion, something we can agree upon is it’ll change things. Writing/ directing combo Varun Raman and Tom Hancock (aka Parallel Madness) suggest it’ll be for the worse. Transmission, written at the height of the refugee crisis, is intended as a cautionary message against a possible rise in white nationalism in the face of ‘the other’. Set in the near future, our beloved Britain has become Britannia: a nightmarish place where “together we stand alone”. The idea is that in this near future, not a million miles from ours, only two meals separate us from empty stomachs and chaos. For 18 minutes the action follows the unstable relationship between the sinister Dr Sam (Hyland) and his tormented victim Leonard (Shon), in a bunker. Throughout his psychological torture Leonard is scared, confused and only able to find solace in his thoughts of the great outdoors and Joan (Keenan).
The result is disorienting and utterly hypnotic. Transmission isn’t the sort of film you necessarily understand on first viewing. Yet it’s one you definitely feel, like a series of punches to the gut. Shown in fragments, strung out of sequence, to an eerie soundtrack, it’s a great bit of immersive storytelling. It isn’t gory (there’s minimal onscreen violence), but there’s still a sustained threat from the opening shot of a flickering TV. There are moments of loud, visceral energy, such as the white noise of the start or the obstructive trumpets when Dr Sam first appears. Speaking of him, Hyland is downright chilling in a roll that verges on dark comedy without falling into campy parody. However, the moments of tranquility Leonard escapes to, whether they are memories or fantasies, are an impressive counterbalance. These match the stark brutality with an otherworldly beauty. It’s rare for experienced directors to combine the two so effectively in a feature, let-alone newcomers in a short. Up until its uncompromising ending, Transmission is like watching a dream and a nightmare duke it out.
What’s clear from this statement of intent is Parallel Madness will be ones to watch. With influences including David Lynch, Harold Pinter and David Fincher they’ve learned from the best and are ready to demand your attention. Let’s hope we’re all around long enough to see what else they have to offer.