I was really impressed with this short film directed by Victoria Mapplebeck, about a romantic relationship she revisited after discovering an old Nokia cell phone. (It was one of those 3000 model series that’s indestructible according to the Internet.)
After a brief prologue, most of the story plays out in text messages we read on screen. I was reminded of Tony Zhou’s essay about texting in movies over at Every Frame a Painting, which I wrote about here.
In keeping with the more stylized conventions Tony describes, we don’t have to see the phone’s screen– the messages are presented on screen for us. The images behind them are a literal subtext that fleshes out the story.
Tony suggests that filmmakers ditch the bubbles and fancy fonts for their on screen texts, since they’re the first things to look out of date. Here, Mapplebeck uses a blocky font reminiscent of the low resolution of the 10-year-old Nokia’s screen.
A couple other clues keep things intelligible for the viewer: Victoria’s texts are always on the left side of the screen, her partner’s texts are on the right. (They often sign their names as well, or at least an initial. Whether this is a verbatim transcription or because viewers are morons, I don’t know.)
I also enjoyed the performative aspect of the texts’ presentation. We see Mapplebeck retyping several of her messages, trying to find the right word. With only 160 characters, precision is important.
Check out the short below!