18 Mar 2022
Rumpus takes video game aesthetics in an interesting direction to explore the potency of childhood imagination.
We are dropped into the world of Rumpus without warning. I say ‘we’ because the film is almost entirely shot using first-person perspective. This is an experimental style more commonly utilised in vlog or video game formats. Several films, such as 2015’s Hardcore Henry, have taken this approach to better immerse their audience, but formally this style is not widely accepted. Using this in a short makes it much more accessible, not committing the viewer to an inertia-driven onslaught of nauseating camera movement, while still allowing a more inviting entry into a new world of exploration.
Like nature vlogs, we’re welcomed into the meditativeness and peace of the outside world. I would be perfectly happy gently exploring that calm without any further complication, but Rumpus takes a step further, soon introducing incongruous elements like a turtle floating in the sky. A swarm of fish appear above our avatar, changing the sky to sea.
The playfulness of nature is quickly replaced with something more threatening however, as familiar animals are replaced with larger-than-life creatures accompanied by pulsing tense music. Environmental changes proliferate further, moving from a motorbike to a car to a race car. Quick pans and turns on a race track move us from one locale to another.
For such a short film, and with such creative ambitions for its incongruous elements of fantasy, the effects are sufficient, although they do occasionally disrupt immersion in their reality. One shot in particular of the burning race car by the side of the road, has been very quickly rendered and appears completely detached from the space around it. The clash of video game aesthetics with the crisp images of nature is generally positively provocative, however, pushing the viewer to consider boundaries beyond our reality. A series of quick transitions from a bike jump to a skydive to a seadive is particularly powerful in transcending the assumed limits of action.
The chaotic movements make sense of themselves as our first-person perspective fades away in a dark tunnel and is replaced by an omniscient view down upon a child’s play area. All the incongruous and disorderly components are re-contextualised as merely toys in a fantastical sandbox.
“When children pretend, they’re using their imaginations to move beyond the bounds of reality. A stick can be a magic wand. A sock can be a puppet. A small child can be a superhero.” - Fred Rogers
As the Fred Rogers quote the film closes with suggests, childhood imagination is imperative to the imagined rendering of real elements alongside the fantastical. The freedom and liberation of ideas lets us move at a moment’s notice from one adventure to the next.