Festival Fare with Alessandro: Above Us All 3D
Actually good 3D? Yes!
Director: Eugenie Jansen
Featuring: Shayleah Sands, Kaleb Sands, Maarten Baes
Production Company: De Productie
Duration: 99 mins
In Dutch and English with English Subtitles
Reviewed by Alessandro Hutt
Sometimes the most daring of film experiments don’t work out quite right – this is not one of those times. I’m fairly neutral on Above Us All as a narrative, but I very much appreciate it as an audacious and bold take on filmmaking. As Jansen told us herself before the screening, the story of the film isn’t so much the important part – it’s the way it is shot.
Put together in 53 continuous panoramic shots and in 50 frames per second 3D, this is a very brave technical film. Each scene consists of one or two 360 degrees pans as the subjects move in and out of the frame. And to be honest – it looks really good while it’s doing it. It’s informative like a documentary, and entertaining like a fictional feature.
While Jansen said the story was second in importance, it is well crafted and compelling. A young half-Aboriginal Australian girl (Shayleah Sands) deals with the grief of losing her mother, while coping with her new surroundings living in Belgium. Using a cast of non-professional actors (Maarten Baes, who plays the father is really an astronomer), the film runs more like a documentary than a drama. And that’s a good thing. Shay and her family feel very real, very visceral because of this.
It’s important to say that the film is not boring at all. After the first few minutes you become accommodated to the panoramas. You might even become immersed enough to feel like you are in the same room as the characters. At the very least you will feel like a passerby noticing strangers. (Ever play the people watching game?) The 3D adds to this feeling rather than takes away from it. It’s not a 2D blockbuster film that’s been converted. This was made to be in 3D and skillfully demonstrates the ever-running passage of time.
Time itself is a character in the film. At times I found myself anticipating character’s movements when they disappear from the lens’ view. There is one memorable pan involving the use of the Pink song “Funhouse” (which is a good song regardless). Other interesting moments are when characters speak their thoughts on death. They aren’t trite or melodramatic – rather they sound like things people would say in real life.
Though I know this one might be particularly hard to find, I do recommend it. The only reason why I did not give it a “Buy” rating is because I think the experience might be lost when viewed outside a movie theatre. It’s a moving picture about grief, with a fascinating turn on film technique. Who knows about this tactic’s usability for other productions, but in this case it is a firm and positive yes.