By David Pountain
Directed by Jí¶rn Threlfall
Thirteen years after Irreversible and fifteen years after Memento, it’s by now pretty safe to say that the reverse chronology device has lost most of its novelty appeal, meaning that any filmmaker who chooses to tell their story backwards had better have some damn good reasons for it. Enter Over, a haunting new short from Jí¶rn Threlfall that uses the technique, not as a central gimmick, but as a means to some disquieting ends. Consisting largely of just nine wide shots and set across a single day, the film depicts the aftermath of a neighbourhood death as the body is carted away, the scene is investigated and the authorities discretely clear out, leaving behind nothing but a bunch of flowers lying by the road. By placing these shots in reverse order, Threlfall allows the tension to build across a day of dwindling eventfulness as the primary questions emerge of who this person was and how they died. For the most part, the pensively still camera keeps at an unobtrusive distance from the proceedings as they play out in an eerily quiet London street, implicating the audience as a vaguely curious neighbour to the events.
The most visually busy shots come in the middle of the film where the numerous goings on with the police grant the viewer various options for which parts of the screen to focus on. But it’s also this section that sees Over break from its rigid style in favour of visual directness as brief cuts are made to the dead person’s possessions which have been taken into evidence. These items – from the individual’s coat to their shoes to their pocket sweets – are given new poignancy by the film’s structure. The reverse chronology allows the details of the deceased individual to accumulate the closer we get to their death, which, when the “˜correct’ order of events is considered, suggests our knowledge and memories of the person quickly fading away Over a short period after their passing.
When Over finally reveals the misfortune that triggers an only mild disruption in its immediate neighbourhood, it’s both a sad end for a life and a deadpan punchline to a grim cosmic joke on how little impact a life can make. It is in this notion that the film’s title – a single word that, in the context of the short, can be read in several ways – finds its most unsettling meaning. It plays on the common fear that, after we’re gone, all evidence of our presence will be lost to time and it will almost be like we never existed – the world, and everyone we knew, will promptly be “˜over’ us.
Recommended Viewing on FilmDoo:
(UK & Ireland only)