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No Smoking short film review


Directed by #DNi

Film review by Nathanial Eker-Male

Director D-Ni proves that smartphones are a capable device for non-conventional filmmaking with this very short experimental piece. No Smoking comes in at just under three minutes and tells a simple story in reverse. A student is reprimanded for smoking on campus (ah, weren't those the days?) before, in an amusing commentary on student-teacher inequality, it's revealed that the cigarette he holds was smoked and disposed of by the Headteacher himself.

Form is the central player here. D-Ni plays with the idea of reversing key events in one's history, calling to mind the feelings of utter despair we all inevitably feel when called up in front of an authority figure. Indeed, the soundscape embodies this sense of dread with its nonsensical aggression and uncomfortable 'melodies', if we can even call them that. In some ways, it could be asserted that the act of reversal represents the desire to repress past mistakes, but perhaps I'm looking into it a little too deeply.

D-Ni also does some exciting things with colour, perhaps reinforcing the aforementioned despair with a literal turn from a technicolour world to a monochromatic pit of despair. Is the move from colour to black and white to contrast good vibes with a painful emotional state a tad cliché? Sure, but it works well regardless. However, the film lacks an inherent culpability, and though the ending tableau of a 'no smoking' sign allows for a cathartic 'a-ha' moment, it inspires little more than a quick grin and a fleeting thought.

Regrettably, the film is also plagued by the occasional sloppy shot. While some may defend the lack of detail as a cinéma vérité inspired work of intentional amateur-ness, the positioning of the camera as a casual observer in an otherwise reasonably normalized diegesis suggests otherwise.

Still. With a little more intent, practice, and ambition, the project could perhaps spell the beginnings of an interesting and enticing experimental director. At present, No Smoking represents an admirable attempt to craft a compelling short film on (presumably) a non-existent budget. 'Smartphone filmmakers' are becoming more and more ubiquitous, and D-Ni's appealing-if-lacklustre short reassures us that this is no bad thing.



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