Living (Frans Zwartjes, 1971, Netherlands)

Living is a 1971 short film by Frans Zwartjes. The film opens with a couple in an apartment block, descending a staircase. The camera is in close-up on them and appears to be handheld. The man and woman are caked in white make-up, giving them a quite ghastly appearance. The man and woman enter an apartment and begin to look around the apartment. The apartment is filled with white walls. The man moves from the living room to the bathroom, along with the woman. The couple return to the living room. This is all overlaid with an atmospheric organ track.

The camera shifts around, and soon we see the couple from below. Then the camera enters the third person as the couple continues to walk around the room. There is an empty bed in the room. The camera set up returns to the handheld view, and the man continues to walk around the apartment, followed by his wife. There is a general atmosphere of paranoia and discomfort throughout the whole film thus far. The woman lies down on the floor and breaks out what appears to be a miniature setup of the apartment along with a floor plan, and the camera hovers around, switching perspectives and creating a sense of disorientation.

Living is an intriguing film that seems to be the first film shot with a "selfie stick". It is incredible how Zwartjes was able to anticipate this era of Facetime from 1971. The film is further enhanced by the organ score, which gives the film an otherworldly and surreal quality throughout. This "tour" of a new apartment is laced also with a sexual undercurrent that permeates much of the camera work. It is unique and while the experiment may wear its welcome, it is unlike any other short film we have seen.



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