A strained, husky voice speaks over darkness, then murky images of firelight and a woman’s face swim into vision. This dramatic opening scene of Wander sets the tone for what proves to be a deeply affecting short film created by Lowkey Films.
Using intense narration over atmospheric shots of barren wilderness, Wander tells the gritty post-apocalyptic tale of Noah, one of the last survivors after ‘creatures’ have destroyed humanity and civilisation. Wander may be small in terms of budget and run time, but it poses some big questions to an attentive viewer.
Over the course of 15 minutes, the audience slowly pieces together Noah’s story from the shots of his life in the wilderness and the gradually unfolding information conveyed through the letters he writes. The film encourages you to uncover a mystery, and on realising the whole dark truth of the plot many more questions emerge from the shadowy depths.
Post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction has been growing in popularity over the past few years, what with the success of Black Mirror, and the recent release of A Handmaid’s Tale (TV); Wander capitalises on this current trend. In true post-apocalyptic fashion, we are led to believe that humans are hunted by huge ‘creatures’, which we see superimposed onto hilltops, immersed as part of the landscape. The film offers just enough contextual background in regard to this, without overdoing explanation of the setting, and that’s important- especially since much of story is told through letters with an emphasis on feeling rather than fact.
Wander featured at over 25 film festivals, across 5 continents and won multiple awards including Best Actor and Best Soundrack. The music is grating, heavy and frightening; and sets up the terrifying ‘meeting’ with Jess particularly well; where, in the rain Noah screams like an animal and digs up the dirt. The soundtrack also includes subtle animal cries throughout, at one point Noah shouts back like a ferocious animal.
What Wander triumphs at is questioning human relationship with effectively a one man cast. Produced on a £800 budget and shot in only a few days, the minimal casting and the voiceover narration would have helped to keep costs down but Lowkey Films use these features to their artistic advantage too. The narration effectively disconnects mind from body and so reflects the desperate solitude which Noah feels, having only his own thoughts and grief to occupy his mind.
Above: a behind the scenes look at ‘Infinite’, Lowkey’s previous film.
It is true that Wander is a heavy film, not to be watched as a feel-good fix, but it is well worth your time. After focusing your sympathy on one man’s story you might feel a jolt in the end, or perhaps like me, you will find yourself questioning everything you know about humanity, love and survival.
Ending with Noah’s rasping “dog eat dog world”, Wander challenges perceptions of humanity. With society taken away, would we become little better than savage animals?
By Anna Whealing