'BEAT THE CITY'
- Directed by Claudinho Gomez -
Agoraphobia- the fear of open, public spaces. This is the theme of this 3 minute short- one that is captured very well. Using suggestive imagery, appropriate camera angles and a well-dosed score, director and producer Claudinho Andres manages to offer an impactful portrayal in what is a largely original take on the subject.
‘Beat the City’ does not have a story per se. It is about a man suffering from agoraphobia, who is unsuccessfully trying to get over his condition. The title is suggestive- he has to ‘beat’ his fear, and overcome the dread which takes control of him when faced with the idea of stepping outside of four walls, his sanctuary, the place where he feels in complete safety.
The multitude of factors which await the man outside: the mass of people each minding their own business, going to work, using the public transport networks, the fast-paced circulation of cars, the changing traffic signs- all of these are brilliantly pictured by means of quickly alternating frames and static shots. The sheer speed at which these images succeed one another creates an almost nauseating feeling, which is strengthened by the powerful repetitiveness of the score. Fast, loud and unmelodic, the soundtrack holds a slow tempo when the man is inside- almost evoking a sense of calm and peacefulness- only for it to escalate into a deafening chorus of noise which echoes the fast-paced exterior environment.
There are many recurring themes in ‘Beat the City’ utilized as metaphors. The fire hydrants point towards a hazard waiting to happen, building up a sense of imminence and danger. The chained bikes represent powerlessness and the inability to move, to get away. A wide variety of traffic signs across the busy street symbolize interdiction, and are powerful carriers of the message: the red colour of traffic lights, a palm showing diverse signs: ‘Stop’, ‘Do not enter’ , ‘No standing anytime’. All of these create a pattern, a frightful one. Again, the director achieves great success in making such ordinary objects that one is faced with during every outing in the city feel so pressing and evoking an eerie atmosphere.
The still shots of the busy street, always taken from behind the scaffolding, are characterized by a slow-motion pace of movement, which contrasts with the almost violent, pushy nature of the close-ups that are introduced every now and again. Another contrast can be found between the two types of elements relating to religion: the altar, as well as the Jesus signs, which symbolize hope and liberation, and the images of the graveyard- death. The liberation through spirituality is a major theme of ‘Beat the City’, also alluded at by the lights situated above the main character, who is otherwise in complete darkness, and bent towards the gaping black hole, which is sucking everything inside.
‘Beat the City’ follows an unnerving pace, and is a difficult film to watch. However, considering the subject which it explores, and its main message, is a positive outcome. Its elements are combined into a very powerful 3 minutes, and the numerous metaphors create a haunting portrayal of what agoraphobia might feel like.