Moomin (2022) dir. Zach Dorn
You may need to head to the vimeo page to watch this one.
As suggested by the skyscraper-friendly aspect ratio that would make even Robert Eggars balk, this is recommended for viewing on a smartphone. But don’t fret if that’s not your usual method for watching, as screenings at the Slamdance and True/False film festivals confirmed, it plays to bigger screens as well. On the surface this is a clever short on long love lost, with the format hinting at deeper themes around the role of devices in our lives and identities.
Watching on a phone as designed adds a strange frame to it, as though your own phone has been hijacked by the filmmaker’s memory. There’s an intimacy in sharing one’s phone screen, even when there’s a performative element to it. Just getting a glimpse of the author’s mundane details (he uses T-Mobile, like me!), his preferences (Domino’s pizza), tools that hint at stories untold (Flush is a public restroom finding app, though it appears he doesn’t have it loaded at the moment) and digital hygiene (316 unviewed texts!) has us searching the edges of the screen for further details. It’s a modern spin on the POV shot that invites the viewer closer, and in just five minutes we’re rooting for the plushy at the end of a claw somewhere in unknown physical space..
Can’t say whether creator Zach Dorn got the dexterity for zipping screen-to-screen through his years of puppetry, or if he’s taking advantage of the ease of hiding edits as he switches apps. Phones are designed to keep and hold our attention, and tying a yarn about a lost love to a phone game is a shrewd move. When the story decouples from the visuals, it’s endangered like any train of thought that encounters digital distraction. Hearing the list of places and things he’ll never see again loses some bite when you’re hypnotized by Clawee.