Crossing over from the world of commercials to narrative short film for the first time, with Rotor Maarten Groen (Director), Nils Vleugels (Writer) and their team have created a visually-rich piece, brimming with intrigue and tension. Eager to create something that they had full creative control over, and have a little fun along the way, Rotor is a strong story with an even stronger aesthetic and atmosphere.
“In our opinion, online is the best way to enjoy short film. This is why we chose not to include a lot of dialogue”.
Self-funding the project, as they didn’t feel like they could enter the crowdfunding arena with no narrative back-catalogue to call upon, the film had a strong festival run including playing at Toronto International Film Festival. Working with a “no-budget” approach, the production team had to think of creative ways to translate their story to screen. “We worked with crew members we usually hire for our commercial work”, says Vleugels, “everybody involved helped us free of charge of which we are still very grateful. The shooting took place in a defunct fortress in Den Helder, in the north of Netherlands. As it’s a no-budget project, we had think of something we could produce fast. In two days tops. We wanted the audience to be on the edge of their seats while watching it. In our opinion, online is the best way to enjoy short film. This is why we chose not to include a lot of dialogue as Dutch is a language spoken by less then twenty million people worldwide and we did not want to scare off an international (online) audience.”
“I stripped the story from all these possible explanations”
Adopting a Sisyphus-styled story, for fans of the feature films Moon and Triangle and those who enjoyed the recently SotW-featured Mouse-X, the looping-narrative structure of Rotor might feel like something you’ve seen before (but isn’t that the point?). Groen’s film might lack the complexity of the aforementioned storylines, but in a way its this open-nature that makes it even more intriguing. Rotor doesn’t seem intent on answering too many of the deeper questions (why is this happening? what is the lead character guarding?), but by leaving this vagueness to proceedings, the storyline is left free to interpretation – something Vleugels admits they were keen to focus on with their narrative – “The first iterations of the story had these clues like a nuclear icon on the wall to suggest it was some sort of testing ground for all sorts of scientific experiments”, the director explains, “but then I realized how completely obvious and clunky this is, and I stripped the story from all these possible explanations. I think not knowing anything about this guy and his surroundings adds to the mystery and I like how most people who watch it create these own potential background stories for him. They additionally also have very different readings of which version of the security guard killed which, and that really surprised me (in a good way) because I thought everyone would interpret it the same why I did”.
Listing Groundhog Day, Looper, Donnie Darko, Back To the Future and Twelve Monkeys as influences, Rotor’s tight run-time and stylised visuals means it’s a short well-suited to online screening. Never outstaying its welcome and providing its audience lots to ponder, Groen’s film is a fun and thrilling way to spend 7-minutes of your day.
Having just completed a five-day shoot for their next short Vliegen (Flying) – which Vleugels describes as “a magical-realist film about a seven year old girl who witnesses a man jump from an apartment building without comprehending she’s just witnessed a suicide” – you can follow the progress of this latest short and find out more about DPPLR’s commercial work on their website or Vimeo account.