Directed by Thiyagaraja Starring Michael Marinaccio, Eric Roberts, Angela Gulner and Bruce Eckelman Short Film Review by Lorenzo Lombardi
Director Thiyagaraja’s Than All Else Ever has a superlative title for a reason. It contains themes of concepts such as love and time, and questions our understanding of the universe. Needless to say, it means a lot to convey in its running time of just under 15 minutes. But does it do it well?
We are taken on a journey with a narrator that recounts an anecdote of a space scavenger named David Galloway (Michael Marinaccio). He is tasked with reprimanding a rogue captain as well as retrieving a space pod they stole. Along the way, we see glimpses of Galloway’s love life.
Marinaccio’s role is well acted and intriguing. He serves as the allegorical and emotional soul of the themes and story. On the other hand, that rogue space captain mentioned is played by the award-winning Eric Roberts (Dark Knight), who completely steals the short in his limited screen time. You truly feel a sense of history and insanity with this Kurtz-esque character, from the grizzled hair to a cynical outlook on destiny and choice.
Than All Else Ever’s general idea is that no matter how far we technologically evolve, humanity will still remain determined --- for better or worse --- by its natural tendencies. This idea is furthered through the use of a black and white filter. Adding to this, flickers to the frame are seen. At one point, we even witness one frame roll up as if the film is being shown through an old projector. This artistic choice visually conveys the notion of humanity’s tendencies from the past. In the story, qualities and states of mind such as hubris and limerence determine the characters’ bittersweet fates. Is free will just a concept? This is one of many philosophical questions posed to the audience.
As you can gather, Than All Else Ever executes these heavy themes well. It has solid acting, an occasional but droningly soothing score and deep thematic depth, achieved profoundly through smart artistic choice. At parts, though, its influence of 2001: A Space Odyssey oozes too evidently, and its effects can sometimes seem amateurish. The inclusion of a narrator does not do many favours either, shoving down the themes in a not-so-subtle way. Still, it is a surprisingly dense bit of short film prowess. Give it a try and contemplate what makes us human.