Monday, December 3, 2007

What Price Happiness

The Short Film Blog-a-Thon is going on through Saturday. It is co-hosted by Only The Cinema and Culture Snob. I debated on whether I was going to enter a post because well, my knowledge of short films is short. A few years back I came across a short film on ifilm and although I had forgotten its title, its subject matter has haunted me to this day. Well thanks to The Short Film Blog-a-Thon as major motivator, I was able to find the film while searching around last night. The short film is titled More and it was written and directed by Mark Osborne in 1998.

The story centers around a single character. Told to the haunting notes of a song by New Order, we find our character in a drab world working at a drab factory making of all things a widget called "Happy." Happy is built to make everyone feel better about the despair around them - not unlike the designer prescription drugs of today. Of course the irony is that our character is not happy making "Happy." He is happiest when thinking of his childhood. A simple silhouette of children playing on a Merry-Go-Round. He keeps these thoughts in a compartment in his belly and when things are at their darkest, he refers to those feelings to help get him through.

While our character toils at the factory making "Happy" he is also developing his own widget at home. A new form of "Happy" called "Bliss" that comes in the form of a pair of goggles filled with the our character's childhood happiness. When it is released a new form of happiness finds our character as he is showered with money and praise for discovering a new way to look at the world. The feeling quickly fades though as we find that in the process of developing "Bliss" our character has lost the whimsy that once came from within.

Lost innocence might be the saddest thing I can think of. I rarely take photos because they are constant reminders of time gone by. Of things changing. Of compromises. As a father, I want so badly for my son to grow up but at the same time, I crave that innocence. That carelessness. Why must we give up so much as we grow older? I couldn't help but draw parallels between this short and Citizen Kane. Charles Foster Kane surrounded himself with indulgences, but it was his childhood sled that he remembered the most. In growing up, why must we constantly re-define happiness? In the end, it doesn't need to be so complicated and as More shows us, it's not.


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Anonymous said...

Piper: More was created for IMAX, so YouTube doesn't do it justice. It's gorgeous and available on several short-film compilations on DVD. The filmmaker also appears to have put it out separately.

PIPER said...

Culture Snob,

I had no idea. That would be pretty amazing to see it on IMAX. In searching I found that it was available on DVD. I might have to pick it up for Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Well, while I think MORE is pretty impressive, I also think it's pretty heavyhanded, too.

PIPER said...


I guess I'm not seeing the heavy-handedness due mostly to the fact that there's no dialogue and it's only six minutes long.

Ed Howard said...

Thanks for this. I always loved this film, I remember it used to be a music video for some other band (not New Order) that got quite a bit of play -- I never realized it was actually an independent short film in its own right. It's not the most subtle film, but it's very affecting and beautifully done.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why we fault genuinely short films for being less-than-subtle. Do we criticize a pop song (generally three to five minutes) for being repetitive, and for not giving us new insights about the human condition? At a standard page-per-minute screenplay, More would be six pages long. That's not much.

The format requires different expectations -- not diminished, but different.

TALKING MOVIEzzz said...

Always loved this. Back in the early days of DVD, when they used to issue a whole bunch of DVD magazines and short film sets, this seemed to always be on it. I never got tired of it.

Would have loved to have seen it in IMAX.

PIPER said...

Ed and Ray,

I'm a man that celebrates subtlety like golden nuggets at the bottom of the sea. That being said, I don't see this as being an in your face movie at all. It's simple and maybe in its simplicity it doesn't mince any words, but I would never say that this is not a subtle little film.

And Ed, I bet this was seen during a Tool video. They used this same technique for a lot of their videos.

Ed Howard said...

Nope, not Tool. After a little research, it was a band called Kenna, with a vaguely Radiohead-lite song called "Hell Bent."

Anonymous said...

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