For today’s Throwback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s ongoing column dedicated to the great science fiction of the past, I think we should take a look at one of my favorite things about science fiction: the short film.
But first, we should talk about why sci-fi short films are so amazing.
Quite simply, the medium allows for a far more immersive environment than a short story ever could. Even a two-minute fan-made film of Jed Whedon and The Willings’ “The Ancestors” tells a story more completely than the short stories I read. The plot hermeneutically lies completely in images and relies on the audience putting it together.
When one writes, especially a short story, one doesn’t want to get bogged down in too much detail. It would distract from the story that is being told. But when it comes to films, one can add all those small things that are important to the world, but not necessary to the story. Then, the audience can spend time at its leisure to try and piece together what happened to make the environment the story takes place in.
Which brings me to one of my favorite sci-fi anythings ever made: ‘Voices from a Distant Star’ (or ‘星の声’).
I should probably admit that the first time I was introduced to this film, I had no interest in it, namely because I was supremely underwhelmed by the artwork. I was even more underwhelmed (unfairly) that its creator, Makoto Shinkai, had made the film completely on his own. “Oh great,” I thought, “so no only is he not a great animator, I have to see everything else he’s not great at.”
Thank God that was ten years ago, and I’ve grown up a lot when it comes to appreciating all art.
And it’s a good thing I took a chance on this short film because it transformed me. ‘Voices of a Distant Star’ took a simple precept of light speed, meaning that if one moves at the speed of light, time slows down, and turned it into something beautiful. Though I’d like to use a more scientific explanation, I really think it was explained best in ‘Contact’:
In that video, Palmer Joss tries to convince Ellie not to go on the alien “ship” because by the time she returns everyone she ever knew or loved would have passed on.
The basic premise of the short, then, is what becomes of a relationship when one remains the same age, and the other grows old, the messages sent between them growing further and further apart? In ‘Voices Of A Distant Star,’ one person stays on Earth, growing older and older, waiting for text messages that start taking years to come from a girl who is still the same age. He has to relive his past every day so she can have a future, and it’s… really heart-breaking.
And if that doesn’t sell you, it has elements of ‘Ender’s Game’ (sending children to war against unknown aliens) and mecha anime.
In short, this is really good story. I love that it takes a scientific concept and turns into a truly emotional story, and I love how the world is ours and not ours in all its jarring beauty. Most of all, I love that all the details are there for you if you want to look for them, but they never get in the way of a great story.