A prisoner finds a box. He’s told not to open it…
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Producer/s : Sophie Venner,
Director/s : James W Griffiths,
Writer/s : David Maddox, Malcolm Morrison
Actor/s : Tom Cullen, Michael Gould
This short film classic opens with prisoner Ives being escorted across a bleak prison yard. He’s been beaten, and seems to be facing a long, possibly endless incarceration behind high walls and razor wire. He is taken by guards speaking Polish to Room 8, where another prisoner, Shears, has a mysterious red box on his bunk.
The film was a product of a Bombay Sapphire Gin promotional campaign. Filmmakers were asked to create something from some ambiguous lines (“Don’t open it” “Why not? “You might regret it.”) provided by Oscar-winning writer Geoffery Fletcher (Precious).
Room 8 won BAFTA’s short film award in 2014, and it shows what the medium can do, counterpointing expressionism, realism, and film’s capacity for the surreal. The grim grey Stalinist prison plays off against a warping of three dimensional space through simple editing and VFX. The product is a totally believable and haunting tale born of bricks, boxes, and the impossible.
For sure it owes a lot to Chris Nolan’s 1997 short Doodlebug, but Room 8 works better as a story: we are sympathetic, curious, tense and horrified in turn by the inescapable trap-within-a-trap that Ives enters. The film wears its symbolism lightly, but it’s there: is Ives us, in the same prison/trap as him, in a world too big for us, manipulated by forces we cannot understand let alone control? What price might we pay if we take risks to escape?
From that seed James Griffiths has created a unique film that must be seen.