In 2003 there was Skype, by 2004 Facebook was founded and by 2006 people were tweeting. For an overwhelming majority, social media has become a daily staple. A couple of logins later and we armchair explorers are traversing terrain our parents would never have dreamed possible, all just at the click of a button.
This playground of data and possibility is the backdrop for the latest from recent winner of the Academy of Motion Pictures’ Nicholl Fellowship, Sam Baron. His brand new short film, Windscreenwiperman, ventures into the grey and cloudy world of online relationships.
Simon, played by Raphael von Blumenthal (a regular Baron collaborator), is an average guy with a girlfriend called Annie and a normal, slightly dull job. Social media plays a big part in his day: he uses it to Skype his girlfriend, message his friends and catch up on everything from hedgehogs to murderers. Of an evening he goes on a website called Chat Roulette where random strangers can meet online and chat to each other (with the option to skip of course). It’s through this website that he meets Tom, a 14-year-old, from Abbotsbury. I already know what you’re thinking. Something like: ‘where is this going?’ coupled with ‘that’s a bit weird’ would be my best guess. The thing is, that is exactly what Sam Baron wants you to think.
Windscreenwiperman takes something we do every day and asks some pretty tricky questions. Is it a good thing to connect with others in cyberspace? Is it only good sometimes? Should we be protecting vulnerable people online? This intelligent and thoughtful piece has at its heart a relentless moral interrogation, which makes it an incredibly engaging short with real punch.
As the story unfolds, Simon’s anonymous quest for an interesting conversation soon becomes more serious as his paternal instincts begin to conflict with external perceptions and a general sense of unease. In a striking scene, girlfriend Annie becomes uncomfortable about the friendship emerging and Simon questions: “What’s wrong with meeting people?” To which she replies: “Nothing, just do it at a bus stop!”
In just a short space of time, the director of The Wishing Horse drags his viewers from their keypads to challenge the stigma attached to relationships developed online, highlighting the value of not needing to be at a bus stop to make a connection.
This film is not just challenging but very well acted, featuring Joe Hurst who you might have seen recently in the BBC’s A Casual Vacancy. With a role in Tim Burton’s latest Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass up next, expect to see a lot more of this young talent in the future.
At just under twenty five minutes long, Windscreenwiperman sees Baron take a simple idea, unpack it and leave you wondering whether Mum and Dad were right after all. That, in my book, makes it well worth a watch.
Review by Georgina Pollard.
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