Directed by Jon Callow
Starring Liam Docherty
Short Film Review by James Burgess
The Fischer Enquiry, is the first short film from writer/director Jon Callow. An economical filmmaker, with a minimalist approach, he accomplishes covering a lot of important, even topical concepts, through a strong sense of resourcefulness, when that is precisely also his limitation. Thematically, Callow often explores ideas of technological paranoia, secrecy and security. You can see the roots of these start to be planted organically here, as a solo protagonist (or antagonist, as the case may be, played with a subtle, unreadable ambivalence by Liam Docherty) faces a difficult moralistic choice. The fact that his motives are deliberately unclear from the outset, only fuels to catalyse the suspicion of his agenda even further, making his character all the more ambiguous. The privacy versus safety debate, especially in today’s digital, all-consuming social-media zeitgeist, is ripe for reinterpretation. This is also true of the presumably intentional subjectivity of the film - the less Callow shows, the more the audience can deduce their own conclusions.
The absence of any spoken dialogue is the most telling example of this, so the audience must instead establish that most fundamental of dialogues between image and sound, almost rhythmically, akin to a metronome. The Fischer Enquiry could’ve benefited from some more definitive answers for clarity at various stages - even in the form of narration. However, maybe the lack of these basic conventions, which are so often taken for granted, particularly in more mainstream cinema, is just as striking as their inconspicuousness.
Tonally, this may be all covert and darkly duplicitous, but the exterior aesthetic, at least appears to be the complete polar opposite. One of the most successful stylistic elements is the cinematographic pallet. Dappled sunlight, verdant tress and wide-open fields, seek to emphasise the sense of human isolation, but the antithesis between tacking clinically cold and complex contemporary subject matter, but with a warm visual style, makes for a refreshing juxtaposition. This may also be deceptive, and is broken up by the chill of intriguing graphic inserts displaying those flat, grey, restlessly ever-disconcerting algorithms. The score too, (its inclusion all the more vital, when accounting for artistic constraints), is appropriately digitised and equally capricious. Its main shortcoming is the monotone of its pacing. There’s almost no variation of impact throughout. However, as with the essence of the film itself, this may be another hidden subtlety - just as much deceitful as it is seemingly innocuous or incidental.