We’re not going to go too far in our wayback machine we like to call Throwback Thursday, our ongoing column dedicated to the great science fiction of the past. In fact, we’re only going to go about 11 years because I believe ‘Pale Cocoon’ is an underrated, unknown short film that deserves a little bit of light.
Directed by the award-winning science fiction filmmaker, Yasuhiro Yoshiura, ‘Pale Cocoon’ is a 23-minute film that is so full of small details revealing a larger story that it needs several viewings to even grasp a small part of the world.
It follows a young man named Ura, who works tirelessly as an “archive excavationist”. The world he lives in is dark and metal, with increasing hints that he is in fact underground. Eventually, you are able to piece together that the Earth is uninhabitable, and humans leave beneath its surface for reasons no one knows, though it seems likely to be an ecological disaster of some sort. Humans have little memory of what they came from or where, and it’s people like Ura’s job to find old records and piece together a narrative.
His friend Riko is supposed to be helping with this, but instead, skips work to gaze up at a set of stairs that wind up into an infinite blackness. She doesn’t think they should know about the history of humans because it will be too sad, and she thinks about what lays up at the top of the stairs, claiming that her grandmother lived up there and fell to the stop where Riko liked to lay.
Ura then finds footage of a woman that convinces him to go to the surface. He hands it to Riko before taking an elevator up. When Riko analyzes it, we find out that humanity lives in the center of the moon, and that the Earth looks as if it is covered by rust. The last thing we hear of Ura when he sees the earth is “blue.”
The great thing about this science fiction is that it doesn’t hold your hand, but lets you into the world with little details in the animation, the conversations, and in the backgrounds. Also, with no real reliable source for information, since the main characters know as little about the past as the viewer does, you are left to draw conclusions based on the same data they have and there are different ways for you to interpret it. It’s also an incredibly emotional piece that connects with you instantly and drags you and your heart along through this strange future world.