Monday, January 19, 2009
This short 13-minute film from filmmaker Jayson Densman, based on a story by Jeremy C. Shipp, is a surreal look into the fractured psyche of a man. The short film has so many layers, so much symbolism and so many different meanings depending on how you view the film that it just boggles the mind and will leave you thinking about it days after watching the short.
Though I am familiar with Jeremy C. Shipp’s books (notable Vacation and his short story Camp), I haven’t had the pleasure of reading Egg. Nonetheless, filmmaker Jayson Densman has seemed to perfectly capture the bizarro fiction of the author. The surreal, nightmarish quality of Shipp’s writing is given visual life by Densman.
The short is about a young man named Lane (Jeff Swearingen) recollecting the exact moment he went mad. As we see a small child (Mac Grimes) locked in his room surrounded by stuffed animals, we hear Lane say that the day he went crazy was just like any other…he just had to decide who to love and who to reject. Then his domineering, nasty father (Ka Beesler) comes in and it is alluded to the child has been sexually assaulted by him. Lane, as a small child, then runs away from home and ends up at a barn where he meets an older version of himself. His older self gives him an egg from a hen he has rescued from a slaughterhouse in exchange for the young Lane’s favorite teddy bear. We then see Lane as an adult who doesn’t quite grasp what is real and what is not…
Egg is a very artistic and surreal film that many people won’t appreciate, but if you do like those kind of films (like me) you will definitely appreciate it. Most of the action is told in black and white, with lots of sinister red added to some scenes. The film also has a nightmarish quality to it, like its all a bad dream Lane can’t wake up from. The dark colors and slow motion shots make you feel as if time in Lane’s world moves slower and bends back on itself every once in a while, trapping Lane in a never-ending circle of memories.
This film can have many different meanings, and I think it all depends on the viewer and what meaning they take away from it that is important. I found that one important message from the film was how society turns a blind eye to the exploitation and suffering of animals that are used for mass consumption. In an early scene when the young Lane sees his older self in the barn, his older self goes on at length about the hen he has rescued. He explains to the young Lane that from birth chickens have their beaks painfully seared off so when they go mad in their tiny cages they don’t peck each other to death. He also details their agonizing life in cramped cages where they can’t turn around or spread their wings and tells him that at the end of their lives they are chained upside down and their necks are slit. This usually doesn’t kill them, so right after that they get dunked into a vat of boiling water. Even though Lane knows all of these horrible things, as an adult he still continues to eat eggs. He is so ignorant that he also offers eggs to his vegan girlfriend, even though he knows she doesn’t eat any animal products. That is not the only point the film is trying to make, but it is one meaningful point that resonated the most with me in this film. It really makes you think how and why we as a society continue doing such horrible things even though, deep down, we know they are wrong.
The rest of the film is just as thought-provoking and Jayson Densman’s able direction really captures Shipp’s writing style. Seek the film out if you have a chance!
Egg at Raw Dog Screaming Press!
Jeremy C. Shipp’s Official Site!