Doodlebug

Christopher Nolan's debut surrealist horror: a man tries to hunt down and squash an obscure creature in his squalid apartment, .

Genre: Horror

Length: 02:59

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5 out of 5 stars

Producer/s : Christopher Nolan,

Director/s : Christopher Nolan, 

Writer/s : Christopher Nolan, 

Actor/s : Jeremy Theobald, 

 

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A mini-classic of the short form, this, for three reasons.

One, it’s an early showing of Chris Nolan’s promise. Two, its sophisticated editing and visual effects, especially bearing in mind this was done in pre-digital days with the facilities of a university film club (Nolan didn’t go to any film school). And three, it uses the form for surreal purposes that have hardly been bettered since.

It has impact from the first frame of the title sequence, as the double-o in Doodlebug takes the form of a pair of haunted, paranoid eyes looking left and right. The lighting expands to show a shabby man in a shabby bedsit, crouching, poised, holding a shoe to swat the bug of the title.

It’s in black and white, the shadows are dark, the music edgy. All very expressionist. Every time he dives to get the bug, he misses, and loses it again. The phone rings, breaking the tension. He puts the phone into a jug of water. Maybe the bug is an electronic bug? But no. It scuttles off between his legs, concealed under his boxer shorts that were on the floor.

Finally he traps and exposes it, and sees exactly what it is: a miniature version of himself. Strangely, its movements anticipate his by a few seconds, as if the small man is chasing a bug of his own. And then…

You can take it as a meditation on a multi-dimensional universe, or consider the question of whether we are just playthings of a superior being, which itself is a plaything… This film surely inspired the end sequence of Men In Black, and of course Nolan himself would revisit the ideas in Inception.

Or you can just enjoy three minutes of creepy perfection, and a piece of film history.