Optimism at point of no return
David Pirie, author of A New Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema (1973, republished 2007), 2007


Dan Walwin's Optimism at point of no return is an inspired fragmentary short sci-fi film, combining innumerable influences, most notably the enigmatic mosaic shorts of Chris Marker and also more modern dream-like visions such as Daniel Boyle's 28 Days Later. But, unlike the latter, this short film is by no means linear but invites its audience to piece together a very menacing narrative from a series of fragments. Like Marker's short films for the French New Wave of the 1960s the action is visibly constructed as a highly engaging puzzle. We glean that some appalling bomb (whose effect sounds like a neutron bomb) has been detonated and little has survived. We appear to be with a few of those who caused this mysterious attack (a "pilot" is mentioned). They report what they see, but are themselves in difficulty. A strange and effective-looking bunker (that sine qua non of the whole English 'secret' landscape and of course a staple of the current series Lost) is at the centre of this web though its purpose is obscure. The use of subtitles, conveying possibly some communication device, only adds to the overall air of paranoia and menace. There are some remarkable shots and moments including one worthy of Lars Von Trier in which the camera is elevated to tree top height. Of course because of its obscurity Optimism will infuriate some (there are a few places too where it is technically a little rough) but that goes with the territory. This is fresh, original and convincing film-making with an amazingly atmospheric use of landscape.


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