1945A / The Gift / R-Ha: three science fiction shorts that show creative and visionary promise

Ryan Nagata, “1945A” (2010)

Carl Erik Rinsch, “The Gift” (2010)

Kaleb Lechowski, “R-Ha” (2012)

These films have a few things in common: they’re very short science fiction films, they use CGI, they have open endings and they involve conflict of one sort or another. The films look very credible in spite of their low budgets and at least two of them have been picked up by Hollywood for future movie treatments. Of the three directors, Kaleb Lechowski is a German film student, Carl Erik Rinsch was Ridley Scott’s protege and Ryan Nagata has had extensive experience working in television since 2005 at least, according to his profile on the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com).

The “A” in “1945A” stands for alternate reality and it poses the question of whether victory of the Allied forces in World War II was due simply to luck on their side and not on the Nazi side. The American forces, fighting somewhere in western Europe, are suddenly confronted by a new sophisticated Spinnepanzer machine that not only stalks the landscape like something out of H G Wells’s “War of the Worlds” but breathes flames up to 50 metres in length and even has a laser death ray that melts tanks into metal pancakes! The Americans panic and flee. Nagata leaves us in no doubt that technology such as this eventually won the war for the Nazis in his parallel universe. Although filmed in colour, the story takes place at night and so the visual style of the film is various shades of grey. The fighting is desperate and brutal on both sides and Nagata doesn’t flinch from showing the horrors of war as soldiers are incinerated and one man screams in pain from two severed legs. The short looks as if it’s part of a much longer film and some viewers might find it unsatisfactory as a short in its own right. The acting looks quite credible and I didn’t think it was amateurish at all.

“The Gift” takes place in a futuristic Moscow in which a stranger carrying a mysterious box wangles his way into a politician’s mansion and uses the box to distract the man’s attention in order to assassinate him. The stranger later dies and his box is picked up by the politician’s robot servant who races away from the police. The second half of the film short is taken up by the police chase which ends tragically for the robot. The police never recover the box which ends up lost in an icy river. We are left to guess what the mysterious object in the box is that fascinated the politician.

The film is suspenseful and the acting at least is effective for the plot’s purposes. The integration of CGI with live action looks realistic though viewers may wonder why such sophisticated technology like a robot servant and a breath-testing analyser in a tiny metal straw co-exists with tinny box-like police cars. Oh well, the Russian government obviously took the police force for granted and didn’t throw enough roubles at the nation’s men in blue. As with “1945A”, we are left guessing at what might happen next with the box and this adventure with the stranger, the politician and the robot is just one of many that the box and its secret denizen have experienced.

Like “1945A”, Lechowski’s short could be a trailer for a much longer film. Two alien civilisations are at war and each is determined to destroy the other. The pilot of one civilisation is captured by the war machines of the other and subjected to torture. He steadfastly refuses to give up any information but the torture forces him to open up his mind to the machines that read his thoughts and memory. The pilot manages to escape and fly off but the war machines pursue him. Has he really escaped or have they tricked him and are using the information obtained from his mind to lead them to his headquarters?

The dialogue between the alien and the machine is hard to follow even with the volume levels turned up to maximum so I lost some of the details of the plot. The CGI work is very impressive, especially in the scenes where an entire city is destroyed by giant spidery war robots. In this short at least, torture pays off and the pilot may live to regret that in a moment of weakness he allowed the enemy to plumb his mind and inner being. Of course there’s always the possibility that in the torture scene the pilot deliberately thought of something that might lead the enemy machines astray. There is the obvious conflict between two very different alien species fighting for their own survival and there is also the conflict between an alien species that believes in putting soldiers on the ground and one that relies on machines to fight on its behalf: the suggestion is that the species that puts its own on the line is somehow “nobler” or more ethical and less cowardly than one that vicariously fights wars. I wonder if Lechowski was making a comment about the West fighting drone wars across western Asia and parts of Africa?

All three films show a lot of promise for their creators and I wish the three well in their future careers as film directors, writers and SF visionaries.

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