In a performance reminiscent of Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets, Benedict Wall plays several unfortunate members of the Duncan family, each of whom dies violently on his 10,000th day. The family curse weighs heavily on Darby Duncan, who arrives at his cousin Bruce’s funeral and falls desperately in love with the dead man’s wife.
While the beautiful Arabella inititally rebuffs Darby’s advances, she relents when he assures her that his own date with destiny is mere days away. Vowing to “suck the marrow out of the life I have left,” Darby sweeps her off her feet for a few days of wild adventures, including car theft, arm wrestling, and of course, passionate lovemaking. But then things don’t exactly go as planned.
The film mines some very dark comedy out of a situation that could be described as a one night stand gone wrong. Though the premise is obviously absurd, it brings us face to face with something that makes all of us awkward and uncomfortable. The cheesy sentiment of “living life to the fullest” is matched by some incredibly cheesy “special effects” that keep things off kilter. So too the plot, which has us wondering whether Darby himself believes in the curse, or whether he’s just a very clumsy con man.
Two of my favourite comedic techniques, repetition and carrying the gag on just a bit too long, are used to great effect in Ten Thousand Days. The deadpan performances of Wall and Morgana O’Reilly also stand out. Playing two people trying to maintain their dignity under mystifying circumstances, each has ample opportunity to display their comic timing.
Director Michael Duignan told me that the idea for the film started to form after he’d met a guy at a party who told everyone that he was convinced he wasn’t going to live past thirty. Suddenly everyone treated him like he had some hidden wisdom, hanging on his every word. Says Duignan, “Modern life makes dying seem remote and distant, like something that only happens on TV, but maybe if we knew a bit more about it we might not feel so bored and empty. On the other hand we are often told that we should live every day as though it was our last, but if everyone actually did that, society would collapse. I’m not sure what the answer is, but Ten Thousand Days is a short film that flirts with the idea that death can sometimes keep love alive.”
At least until another doomed cousin comes along…