PUBLISHED 24 JULY 2017
IN 2013, James W. Griffiths, a little known director that has thus far only worked on shorts, made the BAFTA winning short ROOM 8. This five-minute film, created for the Bombay Sapphire Imagination Series, will leave you with more questions than when you began. Indeed, Griffiths has created a film that could be considered more of an optical illusion than a short film. ROOM 8's somewhat complex narrative revolves around the singular object of a red wooden box that is on a bed inside a prison cell. Once a prisoner is introduced to his new cell mate, he comes across a mysterious box that he is told not open. Unable to resist the temptation, he opens it to find a miniature replica of his prison cell inside. This idea draws on science fiction, drama and horror genres all in the small space of five minutes, producing an intelligently-crafted short.
There is mystery in the air that lingers throughout the film and this begins at the start of the film when we are presented with a strange concept that is never fully explained. The ending is no exception; it brings no resolution and the ambiguity of it leaves no definitive interpretation for the audience. Towards the end of the film, Griffiths includes similar visual imagery to his opening shot of the prison inmate putting a matchbox into his draw. This expands and explains his original idea and indicates to us that this short is structured with precision and every significant moment forebodes what is to come.
This structured ending is reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s films. Like the twist in INTERSTELLAR (2014), every moment in ROOM 8 foreshadows later events and leads to a dramatic twist. ROOM 8 is similar to Nolan’s early short film DOODLEBUG (1997) in particular. Both films include elements of science fiction and horror, although the most obvious similarity lies in Nolan’s use of replicating the same object. This occurs in ROOM 8 when there is a smaller version of the main protagonist seen within the wooden box. ROOM 8 is visibly inspired by other directors, such as David Lynch, who famously includes perception tricks and the "box within a box" theme within his films. This is evident throughout the narrative, which takes place in a box-like prison room containing smaller versions of the room.
Griffiths adopts similar visual and narrative techniques from well-known auteurs to help him create a mind-bending short. However, the most impressive part of his filmmaking is how he structures ROOM 8 so precisely. Every moment in this five-minute film is significant. Not a shot is wasted and it is due to Griffiths’ precision and keen eye that the film is so successful.
Watch ROOM 8 here
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