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  • Writer's pictureTerence Im

Junkopia: A Short Film that Blends Beauty and Darkness

Junkopia (1981) is a short film that has a unique eeriness to it that somehow blends together cinematographic beauty with a deeply disturbing ambiance. It is a film devoid of dialogue, characters and narrative, but still, its creative energy still retains the essence of cinema's most fundamental elements: sight and sound. The co-directors Chris Marker, John Simeone and John Chapman dove deep into the potentials of cinema without indulging in extraneous details and an over-reliance on expensive equipment.

Throughout the short film, the viewer is shown successive shots of sculptures located in a wide field of grass near a river; odd forms made of wood that depict various subjects from an airplane to a demonic looking rooster. Perhaps the viewer might not naturally feel creeped out by these images by themselves, but the accompanying soundtrack comprised of shattering glass and high-pitched, alien-like ramblings somehow morph these images into strange representations of mystery that disturb. Still, one can see beauty here if one appreciates its simplicity of lighting and colors; all the more beauty when seen in hind-sight with a nostalgic heart for the look of film camera technology.

Interestingly enough, near the area where the sculptures are captured on film is a highway (the sight of which might give relief to the reader as a break from the monotonous other-worldliness of the wooden sculptures.) The viewer may even feel a strange sort of disbelief that the vast field of grass harboring this strange assortment of mysterious works is anywhere near modern day civilization, especially with the usage of the alien-like sounds that seem to express something akin to the dark elements of the human unconscious. Even when one hears the voice of a human speaker communicating his words in some radio transmission in the soundtrack, his voice too adopts the sound of the other-worldly when juxtaposed with all these other inhuman sounds.

A film like Junkopia can serve as evidence of the potentials of creative filmmaking that achieves a deep, telepathic feeling and atmosphere that doesn't require a substantial budget or large cast and crew but rather the ingenuity that a filmmaker (in this case filmmakers) can display by understanding the potentials of each of cinema's different elements: camera angles that can evoke extraordinary yet subtle emotions, the harmonious editing of the visuals with a deeply powerful soundtrack and the selection of a visual subject and setting that already contains the ingredients for fascination and wonder.

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