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Trapped in A Closed Circuit

Review of the Movie “What Do We Do”

The subject of the short film "What Do We Do" is so simple yet intriguing that the filmmaker shares it with us in the very first minute. In that first moment, we discover what the main theme of the film is and what kind of atmosphere we are going to experience. We are not dealing with a realistic story; in an office that could be any kind of office, public or private sector, a phone rings. One of the two employees we see answers the phone. Someone on the other end asks about the nature of their work in that office, but the employee who answered the phone doesn't know exactly what they do there! As a result, he has to ask his colleague. His colleagues also don't know exactly what they are doing in that office. So, we are not faced with a realistic situation. The situation is symbolic, and for this reason, we do not need to deduce the nature of the work or the type of office from the clothes or decorations of the office. Because here the office is supposed to be a symbol of any other office in the world, whether private or public offices, operating in economic, cultural, or other fields. The goal of writer and director Roderick Fenske is to show that generally in a permanent situation, the situation is the same in all offices around the world, and not only do people and passers-by and bosses not know what people in this office are doing, but employees themselves don't know what they are doing. It is a serious and playful satire on the emptiness of being an employee in our era. One of the attractions of this idea is its simplicity and depth at the same time. It is an idea that stays with the audience even after the film ends, and we think about its meaning.

The structure of the movie is straightforward, but it should be noted that in cinema, whatever appears to be simple is built difficult. Firstly, we need to know that the entire film takes place in one scene. The 2 minutes and 44 seconds of the movie are entirely spent in a small room where several employees are working. But the filmmaker did not settle for just that and limited his other options. As we see in the film, we only have a few fixed shots; the shot that the movie begins with (showing two employees in the frame), two individual shots of two other employees present in the room (a woman sitting behind an old typewriter and an employee who suggests calling a higher authority), and another fixed shot of that higher authority sitting in his room. So we see that the film is practically made with four fixed shots, in one room, and the exact time frame of the story is what we are watching (that is, the story of the film has not been condensed or fast-forwarded), and most importantly, the filmmaker did not need to add anything for visual appeal or to capture the audience's attention. Everything we need to know is right in front of us, and the filmmaker presents his story through simplicity and minimalism and in the end, concludes.

The filmmaker focuses on the content he intends to share with us through this short film, which is the emptiness and futility of human existence today. A human who has become a subject to his environment and not able to evaluate. A human who has turned into a machine and is busy working every day without knowing what he is doing or why he is doing it. Roderick Fenske intelligently challenges this aspect of our lives. When we spend a significant portion of our time at work every day, do we know why we are working and what we are doing?

The movie is influential mostly because of its short duration. A symbolic story is defined for us that we can summarize for others, yet it can occupy our minds just as much. Here the screenplay helps the filmmaker to reduce the role of the script and gives more value to the original idea. Therefore, the screenplay serves the movie, and the writer does not strive to increase the level of comedy. The level of comedy in the work does not go beyond a certain limit and does not turn into pure comedy. The short film "What Do We Do" maintains traces of comedy while moving forward, but its intention is not to make the audience laugh. Rather, the filmmaker tries to achieve a certain type of dark comedy. Dark comedy is such that the reader, in the face of painful and agonizing situations, experiences emotions such as suffering, fear, grief, or even emptiness and nothingness. Among other characteristics of black humor, one can mention the use of contrast, exaggeration, distortion, and deviation from the subject. In describing the genre of black comedy, Brown Weber has been quoted as saying: "Humor that generally causes laughter in matters that are more serious than what we can laugh at, such as human death, the collapse of social institutions, physical and mental illnesses, abnormality, suffering, anxiety, grief, deprivation, and assassination." Social conditions and situations governing the communities have played an effective role in strengthening this approach. With this explanation, black humor has many capabilities for expressing issues and examining and criticizing them, which has led famous writers to choose this approach and create notable works.

Director Roderick Fenske

"What Do We Do" is a remarkable short film with many details. The entire setting of this office makes us believe that we are dealing with a real environment, but at the same time, it avoids giving any obvious signs. Therefore, the set design of this film is very important. In terms of acting, we are faced with controlled, thoughtful performances without exaggeration, where the actors try to complete each other. They neither take us to a theatrical and artificial space nor try to make the conditions look real. All the effort has been made to maintain a symbolic space, which has been skillfully written and directed. We should remember the name Roderick Fenske, the writer, director, and producer of this short film, and look forward to seeing his future works.


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