Directed by Sebastiano Pupino
Starring Sumit Chakravarti, Daphne Di Cinto and Tony Honickberg.
Short Film Review by Cameron Frew
Not quite mirroring Brooker’s psyche.
It wouldn’t take a genius to instantly sense the likeness of Black Mirror in Sebastiano Pupino’s short film Gadget. We see our main man Neem (Sumit Chakravarti) tactfully pointing his fingers in the air to the ‘beeps’ and ‘boops’ of some virtual program – sounding more like a child let loose on xylophone than anything else. We soon learn that it is an architectural ‘app’, accessed through Neem’s special glasses.
Memories of Black Mirror, a TV show written by Charlie Brooker, become a familiar theme as you watch Gadget. As Neem works away, and as time marches on, we learn that the glasses aren’t just for work, rather they are like a digital assistant. This is accompanied by a blissfully serene score, carefully composed by Sami El Enany, that serves it’s clear purpose perfectly – it’s not there to relax us, it’s there to build dread.
Cut off from working by the in-program host, Freud, overvoiced by a distracting Tony Honickberg, it is suggested to Neem he should meet someone and ‘release some stress’. Freud speedily whips up the option of escorts, before suggesting a night out at a club called Salvation as an alternative to simply meeting someone, an activity which is stated as ‘being bad for productivity’. The message of Gadget becomes clear at this point; society has become so addicted to technology, as a result it’s dictating our lives, of course it is more literal here.
Pupino then takes us to the club, which contains the film’s most powerful scene. We watch as Neem strolls through darkness commanded by colourful strobe lighting, and people dancing around him to typical dance music. However, we then see that the glasses, which everyone apparently wears, play music for you – meaning people are essentially dancing whilst wearing earphones. It switches between musical cuts and shots of people dancing to the bare sound of feet shuffling on the floor. Not only does it grab your attention, but leaves a haunting sense of unease. Neem inspects the club, pushing his way through the crowds – also encountering a woman who after being rejected by our lead, briefly comments on his ‘rating’ – another Brooker nod from the Nosedive episode last year. From here, the mystery builds alongside Enany’s once again spot-on score, hypnotic and reminiscent of the mighty Vangelis’ work.
Chakravarti’s performance is a mediocre one at best, perhaps trying to reinforce his detachment from society due to the big bad world of technology, but instead coming off as a bit annoying. Thankfully, the more minimalist script itself shouldn’t draw much criticism, and Pupino’s direction – cleverly utilising handheld and first-person shots to put us in there with Neem – deserves much praise considering this is a brief 9 minute movie. It’s just a shame that the pay off has nowhere near enough impact, which should have made us feel like we were kicked in the stomach, but rather only brings out a quick “Oh, right then”. Brooker very much remains the king of eerie dystopia.