Updated: Dec 2, 2018
Theatrical and bursting with energy, Ren Thackham and Gordon Southern's The Skydiver & The Scarecrow short film is a show stopping triumph for it's combination of musical theatre and narrated cinema. Few other independent filmmakers pull out this many stops and even fewer achieve as many grins and guffaws from their viewers.
Telling the story (written by Gordon Southern) of The Skydiver (Sheree Zellner) who is saved from a catastrophic fall by a fortunately placed Scarecrow (Mal Bailey), and their ultimately tragic experience through fame, the short film delivers its tale through a theatre production, with audience in tow, as well as rhyming narration from Southern himself. Imagine if Moulin Rouge had been directed by Wes Anderson and you somewhere in the right direction.
Having witnessed director Ren Thackham split my side numerous times with her short film Round Trip, I was eager to see what else her filmography offers. And whilst The Skydiver & The Scarecrow does not quite achieve the same level of character comedy as Round Trip it is equally as intelligent and funny. The most humorous part of this short is seeing the elaborate reactions of the audience members which ranges from euphoric glee to heart wrenching anguish and can do so in a moment's notice. This cemented the farcical tone of the piece brilliantly.
The central performances from Zellner and Bailey are excellent, journeying through a memorable array of silent cinema techniques and physical presence to enhance their characters. As mentioned there was not enough focus to elevate them to the iconic status of Ned and Constable Rose, but overall they were engaging and suited the short’s wacky vibe.
From a filmmaking perspective I hugely immersed myself into the offbeat rhythm of The Skydiver & The Scarecrow. So much of the film is thoughtfully crafted and pieced together. From the original score by Michael Klubertanz, which was jovial and foreboding as needed, to the imaginative set pieces of the show which flowed seamlessly and with all the vigour you would ask of a Broadway show.
What was so encouraging to see in this, my second Thackham cinematic experience, was that she was not afraid to layer her film. This could so easily have been a great farcical comedy with a nippy pace and plenty of gags, but the film throws in some darker moments and harrowing sequences. It's done subtly so as not to derail the whole thing but enough that the audience can't help but feel unsettled by the plot and the way it develops.
Watch the entire film below.
Or watch the official movie trailer below.