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This Is Only a Test

average rating is 3 out of 5


James Learoyd


Posted on:

Jun 13, 2024

Film Reviews
This Is Only a Test
Directed by:
Bill Sorice
Written by:
Bill Sorice
Tamar Pelzig, Mason Heidger, Jennie Epland

This Is Only a Test is a short film which could very well leave viewers slightly stumped. It’s a Surrealist piece which tells the story of a woman’s ever-changing life, with a focus on this motif of ‘tests’. Despite being purposefully bizarre and disorientating, what’s perhaps more striking is just how nihilistic the narrative becomes. Besides being a Surrealist work, it’s also made strangely - there are technical mishaps throughout, but I’ll elaborate on which of these in fact work within the logic of the movie and which do not. There’s some fascinating, deeply meaningful stuff in this dream-like odyssey, both thematically and stylistically, so we should question what ‘imperfections’ provide further aesthetic context to the work.


I am speaking primarily of its unsettling use of greenscreen. It’s implemented constantly – to a point where it leaves you questioning why they would need to artificially impose a janky image of an empty room; why not actually film it? - Not only this, but it’s noticeably shoddy with the edges of characters fading off into a disconcerting fuzz. It could really throw you off as a viewer; however, its inclusion is so prominent that its quirky effect most likely is a unique artistic decision. One should probably admire its creatively brazen nature, though its ugliness is something one can equally point a finger at. Either way, the phenomenon certainly adds a Brechtian layer of artifice and experimentation to the already abstract story, and I can’t help but commend it. Formal qualities like the editing and cinematography are equally unconventional and further inform this vision.


So, let’s delve more into the narrative itself. We begin with some amusing images of our protagonist applying condoms to what appears to be a broom handle (this certainly sets the tone for the rest of the picture). It then proceeds to depict our main character at various job interviews / auditions, and progresses all the way to old age – with some quite amusing fake gray hair to go along with it, once again adding to that audacious artifice. As tragedies befall the character, the film’s dark sense of humour shines through. The overall messaging is deeply pessimistic – the last shot simply evokes ‘death is all that remains’ - so the filmmaker’s vision is admirably unflinching.


There’s a real vision behind it all even if sometimes it doesn’t wholly translate. But it goes without saying that there are countless characteristics to admire in This Is Only a Test for its artistic ambition cannot be oversighted. Lovers of Surrealism (myself included) are also surely to have a lot of fun with the sporadic nature of the filmmaking, and the profound content. Surrealism is undoubtedly my favourite ‘genre’ to discuss analytically, so the more made the better as far as I’m concerned. The film in question is absolutely a welcome addition to the practice of experimental movie making and makes one wish to explore the director’s other work, just to see whether they still reflect the same sense of filmic nihilism.

About the Film Critic
James Learoyd
James Learoyd
Short Film
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