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Solus

Critic:

Alasdair MacRae

|

Posted on:

27 May 2022

Film Reviews
Solus
Directed by:
Jonathan Brooks
Written by:
Jonathan Brooks & Andrew McGee
Starring:
Henry Douthewaite
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“Mission Control, this is ISS, please come in. Mission Control, do you read?”

 

After losing contact with Earth a lone astronaut aboard the International Space Station begins to feel a strange presence. As his isolation from the team on Earth extends he realises that he needs to act in order to survive.

 

With films set in space it is impossible not to feel the presence of the lineage from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Solaris to Alien to Gravity. From a lens flare as a star rises over the gorgeous curvature of a planet, to the creeping dread of every slow and deliberate movement, these hallmarks of the genre are present in Solus. But, like the aforementioned list, these familiarities do not signify diminishing returns. There is something perpetually awe inspiring, and simultaneously terrifying, about the seemingly impossible marvel of drifting weightlessly above the Earth. And that is even more incredible when given the context that Solus is a film constructed entirely from publicly available NASA footage.

 

This appropriating and repurposing of footage makes for a sense of extreme realism. It requires the film to be built in the edit, a core principle of filmmaking that feels increasingly overlooked in 2022, what with the category’s omittance from the live portion of the Oscars, the rise of the one-shot style film, and the age of the Twitter screenshot. Co-writer/director/editor Johnathan Brooks selects and compiles his footage with precision, finding the right balance of interior and exterior to cut between as well as making canny use of first person footage.

 

Because of the film’s construction, Solus has a Bressonian quality as it relies on Henry Douthewaite’s narration to tell the story with the model (Bresson preferred to qualify his performers as models rather than as actors) in this case being a literal astronaut. It helps to make the heightened narrative plausible as they are performing their daily tasks as naturally as possible with no concept of performance. Therefore, a lot of the obscure, horror-encroaching elements of the short are developed through the audio design. One example being the sound of knocking coming from outside of the station. Another being the utilisation of a shot of the astronaut taking meter readings. In this scene the dials and instruments, in a delightful form of wordplay, appear to be making strange new music.

 

Solus is an entrancing and memorable short that repurposes real-life NASA footage to construct a haunting sci-fi tale. A simple yet inspired concept, Johnathan Brooks and his team have crafted a brilliant new entry into the genre.

About the Film Critic
Alasdair MacRae
Alasdair MacRae
Short Film