Updated: May 22, 2020
Directed by: #DiegoFandos
Written by: #DiegoFandos
“Every morning, a new day is born. No two mornings are the same”. From the mind of Spanish writer and filmmaker Diego Fandos comes a foray into the unexpected and it would be hard to find a more fitting tagline. A 10-minute slice of unnerving anticipation, Aurora is a curious amalgam – simple, beautifully shot yet, undeniably, unsettling.
The action is composed around a single shot. A small, empty boat sways gently in a quiet seaside bay, parallel to a rocky peninsula creeping out into the water. Beyond, lies a vast, empty ocean, a pinkish sky signalling the dawn of a new day. Soon, this tranquil terrain is interrupted by the arrival of a coachload of tourists who chatter nonchalantly as the morning aurora festers in the background.
Throughout, we see none of the cluster of quirky travellers. The nearest we get is a glance of the top of the coach as it pulls up by the idyllic seaside spot. Instead, we have intriguing snippets of conversation from various pairs - two American men, one dismayed at stopping en route to some historical ruins, the other distracted by a young woman on board, a French couple noticing the sunrise in the rosy sky before we hear two Spanish women in dilemma over their friend’s fraught relationship. There is one exception in the film; the silhouette of the coach driver as he walks out onto the jetty, breaking the snapshot of Fandos’ landscape. One of the Americans notices him. “That guy is weird”, says his friend, who oddly chides the driver for simply reading a book whilst the party waited at a gas station.
As someone with a passion for sunscapes, along with a love for looking at open water, the compositional shot of Aurora is a pure delight and the camera never leaves the beauty of this continual, establishing shot. And yet, strikingly, Fandos does not have to do anything with the camera to convey an unshakeable air of ambiguity and enigma. The deserted boat rocks rhythmically in the bay. Mysterious electrical charges and rumblings simmer in the distance as the driver, the one character who appears truly present in this picturesque backdrop, gazes into the distance. Despite the mundane setting, the sense of uncertainty is there from the very beginning. Something is afoot.
This is a film where different realities converge and then contrast. Fandos presents us with a singular central image, a world of near-silent stillness which suddenly becomes inhabited with a stream of sounds; planes soaring in the sky above, the breaking and stopping of the coach, the different languages of the passengers and the chirping arrival of a text message on a phone. Finally, the director unleashes his big jolt and things take a different turn. We’re suddenly in a reality that looks the same but is harshly different to the one we entered and have inhabited so far. Indeed, the scene around which Fandos’ film is built is telling; the fixed certainty of a new day and, with it, the rising of the sun, nature’s greatest spectacle. Ironically, what unfolds is something profoundly alien against this familiar environment and the universal imagery that’s been delivered to us on the screen.
Simple in its premise but devastating in its denouement, Aurora is a viewing experience that, once seen, is hard to forget. As with the best films, Fandos achieves and says so much with so little and one walks away with a lingering unease over the conflict that has immersed us; the sight of the world’s natural beauty juxtaposed with a human act too horrific to reconcile.