No quote this time so you’ll have to make do with a descriptive intro haha
Voted this year’s sci-fi-london.com film festival ‘short film’ favourite, I was really stoked that the fest decided to pair this film on Saturday evening alongside their final feature of the day (I’ll put my review up for the feature separately). I’ve not had a chance to see any of the shorts in person due to my work schedule this year. Thankfully, through the power of technology, Sci Fi London will be sharing their 2021 short film selection online from 27th October until 31st. You can get a pass here for only £12. I’m gonna be doing the same and will share some short reviews on this site for those films.
Okay, back to Scent of a Forest!
This film was directed by Servaes Dewispelaere and was his BA degree project, which is really impressive and I’m looking forward to seeing what he makes in future. It centres on a young woman called Ana, played by Eliza Stuyck, who works in a scent shop. It’s clear that in this dystopian world, the natural worldly things that we take for granted like trees, forests, beaches and so on are all gone. It’s never explained what has happened and the director didn’t explain their interpretation about this in the Q&A either, but it could be some sort of ecological disaster or perhaps nuclear fallout. Regardless, people appear to be dosing themselves with a golden orb drug which when broken, emits a scent of various things which no longer exist in this time. The only catch is that to buy this little orb, you need to sell your soul.
Ana and her boyfriend Peter, played by Luca Persan, talk about the drug. Peter brings Ana to his mother to show him the effects of the drug. Peter’s mother is almost comatose and is seen spooning water into her mouth like it is soup, but comes alive with dance when she inhales the drug in front of them. Peter and Ana are seen staring at the ensuing dance in a series of artistic shots. I particularly liked the shot of Peter seen watching his mother through a mirror reflection. Ana then admits to Peter that she sold her soul months back in order to have the drug. The final scene shows Peter buying the drug, sold to him by Ana who responds to him coldly, and it cuts to birdsong for the credits.
This is a really beautifully done short. It’s pretty unusual for me to get caught up in shorts, typically, but this one really pulled me in. It’s a great concept and not one many directors tend to tackle because obviously conveying scent in film is hard. What I liked about the way this director did it is that the prolonged effects of using this drug totally ravaged the body, so the stark difference between pre-smell to post-smell was visually obvious in that these people went from being non-respondent to dancing rhythmically, and the dances were as unique as we all are. For instance when Peter’s mum dances, it’s quite a manic style I guess, whereas Ana’s dance is more graceful. Obviously this drug, whatever it is, helps these people get through the days so they don’t really care that they sold their souls to get it. It seems that reality is an ugly place it exist in, in this dystopia.
The living quarters of Peter’s mum, which seemed to be an underground bunker and the dark/underground vibe that the film gave off implied, at least to me, that there had been nuclear fallout. Maybe all the forests burned down. I don’t remember there being any sunlight but maybe that’s just the impression I got; but definitely most of the filming if not all was either inside or in darkness. And with the end credits rolling the way they did with the birdsong, it had a strange effect on me as the viewer in that I could almost smell the forest as I expect Peter did. There’s something about certain cues as far as sounds go that can transport you to certain smells and visa versa, so this was a really cool device.
So all in all, excellent short. Not surprised it was voted the best short of the fest. Really looking forward to seeing more from Dewispelaere.