Short Film Review: Escape Velocity (2019)

The sky was a pale blue. It was static in the frame, its gentleness encapsulated within a mere second. Clouds blended right into the smooth flat sky. Its texture was unseen and its carefree nature unfelt.
Then the unmoving sea came into view, and I had to keep myself from blinking before it disappeared right before my very eyes.

Escape Velocity by Jon Lazam is a silent film that explores a mysterious man by the window. Through glimpses of visuals and fleeting moments, you go through a series of quiet memories. Done in silence with absolutely no dialogue or ambient sounds, all you have to hold on to is its fast-moving visuals.

Fill in the gaps with your imagination. Make up the sounds of waves kissing the shore, pretend to walk on sand and step onto fresh grass with your bare feet. What is that like? Could you memorise that sensation with your body? Do you listen with your body?

Maybe you might just realise then, how we barely listen to the world around us. Living in an increasingly fast paced world that runs on urgency and adrenaline, we learn to interact with our environment so differently compared to a mere decade ago. We may be more connected, but we also miss out a lot on our immediate surroundings.

This was what I found interesting about Escape Velocity. It was the arrangement of calm scenarios in quickfire fashion. The images registered on the frame in bits and pieces; you hardly got the full picture.

The texture of the film also reminded me of a medium long forgotten, of films and negatives and the beautiful graininess of it all. Somehow, it also reminded me of disjointed social media feeds and the selectivity of information we come into contact with. The statement “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are” describes my journey through this film.

However, it was not all soft and beautiful. Certain glimpses may lead you down the darker aspects of humanity, which layered the narrative beyond skin-deep beauty and into suspense and danger. They were very brief though; not enough to leave a deep enough impression before my eyes were drawn right back to the scenery of it all.

Then again, this is just my interpretation of Escape VelocityPerhaps it is my own desires projected upon the film. Who knows for sure?

To satisfy my curiosity of the film, director Jon Lazam kindly agreed to an email interview about this short film of his.


So, what exactly is Escape Velocity about? I have my own interpretation of it but I am curious as what your take on it is. 

Escape velocity is actually a term used in physics which pertains to the speed needed for a body to be able to free itself from the pull of gravity. Think of space ships and how they are capable of flying out to space, unlike, of course, regular aircrafts which travel at a much lesser speed. In the film, the pull of gravity can stand for anything that wields power over a person, like guilt, for example, or it can also be the oppressive influence of another person.

What brought you to the choice of not making use of sound? 

I believe that the images themselves already create their own rhythm. I have at one point tried out a few scores made of found sound, but they seemed to distract rather than support or "open up" the images. There is also that fear of the sound exerting too much of an influence: i.e., it could bluntly convey a particular emotion that would only serve to undermine the openness of the action and the imagery of the film.

If there is one frame of the entire film that encapsulates the essence of it all, which would it be? Why? 

There is that brief moment when the man looks back at himself, and consequently, at us, the viewer, through the window, before he finally turns and makes his way to the sea and disappears. That, I think, encapsulates the whole essence of the film. That final instance of self-reflection and connection.

How do you personally escape velocity?

Connection is important especially in the times we live in. Our daily lives, mid-pandemic, are mired in anxieties. It is difficult to pull out of for many of us, and it really helps when we look out for each other.  On a broader scale, it is vital that we sustain a community that can serve as eyes to the dramatic changes around us, many happening overnight, at the expense of the personal freedoms of the powerless among us. We need to come together and remain vigilant, brave, compassionate, and relentlessly committed to truth and justice throughout this crisis and beyond.

Written by Teo Dawn
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