- Directed by Cengiz Akaygün -
Disguised in the form of a thriller, Free Monkeys is a multi-layered short film that elegantly introduces moral issues. David Westermann, the CEO of a large corporation, finds himself being psychologically tormented by people that claim to be victims of his company’s polluting activities. However, as the plot unfolds, we become aware that this psychological torture is in fact his own.
Free Monkeys is structured in an unpredictable manner, with twists and turns that give new meanings to the events and characters. The hostage sequence, where Mr. Westermann is confronted with the consequences of his actions, is a moral discourse on blame and evil. Before this nightmare-like event, a product of his own consciousness, Mr. Westermann had had his head buried in the sand, voluntarily ignorant of the extent of the damage he had caused. Nonetheless, though resistant to it, he is part of the circuit of blame, together with “everyone who has their hands in this”, as his torturer states.
The film is a relevant moral statement that acts on the moral and psychological processes of CEO David Westermann. The torture sequence has a nightmare-like flow and editing, with many jumps cuts and narrow angles that point to it being Mr. Westermann’s own stream of thoughts and fears. At his waking up from this moral and psychological nightmare, we are not sure if he has reached moral awakening. He may be more aware of the consequences of his actions, but will he act on it? Will he overcome his greed and put an end to his company’s toxic activities? In the end, that’s what blaming someone should result in: bringing to an end all actions that are harmful to others.
However, Free Monkeys is not meant to provide clear-cut answers, but rather to raise awareness and make us question our own blame. Sure, culpability can be obvious in some situations, but most often than not, the collective blame makes finding a culprit more difficult. David Westermann himself points to “the politicians and the government” that bear more responsibility than him.
In the end, Free Monkeys is a short that has succeeded in harmoniously adapting cinematography, editing and sound to a compelling plot. The tension is pervasive all throughout the film, and contribute to the seriousness of the matter at hand. The director Cengiz Akaygün needs to be praised for taking a moral issue and disguising it into an engaging psychological thriller. Thought-provoking and captivating, Free Monkeys can be summarized using a quote by Albert Einstein that is evoked in the film: “The world is not threatened by evil people, but by those who permit evil”.