2016 / 8 MINUTES / DIRECTOR: ANDY ROBINSON / SCREENSTORY: ANDY ROBINSON, WEND BAKER, CHARLOTTE VOWLES / STARRING: BECKY LOUISE RICH / MUSIC: MOMO:TEMPO
Having notched up an extraordinary 34,000 hits in the year or so since his unofficial film accompaniment to the Seasons of War book hit YouTube, Andy Robinson’s next film was always going to have a difficult job following such an impressive project. Fortunately, rather than trying to outdo his previous effort – surely an impossible task and a hiding to failure – Robinson has instead produced a small-scale film that doesn’t bear comparison in any way except that of inspiration. Two Feet Tall is a delightful seven minutes that breezes by in what feels like a quarter of the time.
The concept, by Wend Baker, is simple enough. Two Feet Tall tells the story of a downtrodden young woman entirely through the medium of what her feet get up to. With the camera staying always at a level just a few inches from the ground, we first see the feet poking from the bottom of the duvet as the morning alarm goes off, then in the kitchen as breakfast is prepared, walking to work, in the office and the cafeteria at lunch, at a meeting and finally walking home in the evening. The same story is told five times over, with the same incidents occurring in each iteration, but every time with a different action or result. What might have quickly become dull in fact gets ever more engrossing as the film progresses, for a combination of reasons.
On the one hand there’s the photography, which is sharp and simple (there’s a beautiful slow-motion sequence involving a puddle which is not only charming but also acts to foreshadow both the resolution and the final destination), never overcomplicating things to the extent where there’s any doubt in the viewer’s mind as to how the plot is progressing. And there is properly a plot, which develops through each repetition of the sequence of events such that it’s very easy to become involved in the emotional life of the principal character in spite of never really seeing anything above her knees. There is also the fast and straightforward way in which each incident is dealt with, never outstaying its welcome as might easily have been the temptation, so that the iterations each last barely more than a minute, but still manage to give a full account of the owner of the feet’s life.
Then there’s the music, by Timo Peach aka Momo:Tempo, which is as accomplished and as uncomplicated as everything else and thus succeeds in servicing the story without unbalancing or dominating over any of the other elements. It’s a lovely little theme, not a million miles away from the feel of the Badlands score if given a suburban makeover, and altogether it rounds off a thoughtful and coherent set of elements especially satisfactorily.
Two Feet Tall is oddly far more fulfilling an experience than any seven-minute film featuring only images of people’s feet has any right to be, the trajectory of the main character’s emotional life more rewardingly told than in many a major Hollywood blockbuster – and there is even a moment involving a pair of shoes covering the words “Help Me” that is affecting enough to be thoroughly moving. If there’s an issue with the film at all, it’s in what the change from flat to high heels says about the owner of the feet – but I guess as a metaphor for empowerment it’s an obvious visual choice to make, so far be it for me to criticise.
All in all Robinson’s Seasons of War follow-up must be judged a success; probably – in its modest way – even more of a success than the Doctor Who-themed short that preceded it. Certainly it’s an exquisitely rounded piece of work considering the simplicity of its premise!