A gem of the coming-of-age genre, Norwegian director Truls Krane Meby’s latest short film, World Wide Woven Bodies, captures one generation’s unique experience with disruptive technological change. A young boy named Mads finds that his transition into adulthood coincides with the arrival of the internet age in late 90’s Norway, and, along with the classic dial up sound, comes a world of new discoveries— especially ones relating to his burgeoning sexual curiosity.
However, the introduction of porn into Mads’ life is not simply consequence-free exploration. It complicates his relationship with his parents, and his family life becomes muddled with uncomfortable interactions and heated confrontations that are eminently relatable. Meby explores a unique period of recent history where the technological and spiritual became inextricably entwined, and, utilizing period-correct production design, with gorgeous 35mm film to better contrast themes of digital vs. physical, Meby thoughtfully illustrates the embrace and distaste of new technology amidst one of the biggest technological advancements to date.
The anticipation of seeing an image slowly load over the course of seconds that feel more like years, is one aspect that make this short such an authentic period drama. Through his dial-up explorations, Mads discovers a world unbound and free of censorship, allowing the growth of his instinctual, yet stunted sexual curiosity. ‘What is sperm?’ — a simple enough question, but certainly not a comfortable one to ask. Thankfully, he is able to learn more from a piece of new technology than his oblivious parents could have ever imagined. Despite the inherent difficulty of making a computer interaction cinematically appealing, Meby captures both the playful nature of a child and the scariness and shame of coming to terms with the new-found desire that comes with adulthood.
Meby elaborates on how he thinks the internet is related to our humanity: “I wanted to show how the internet always has been intimately connected to our intimate parts, given its free-flowing uncensored nature and the relative ease of covering the tracks of one’s hidden passions. As the internet gets more and more incorporated into our lives, and probably, eventually, our flesh, this connection will grow all the more. This can be considered an origin story of this connection.”
In stark contrast to the flat digital images projected on the small computer screen, Meby shot this film on 35mm, wanting a “physical, tactile sense of space” to give the characters a dimensionality that would make the computer world seem gaudy and cheap. Mission accomplished—the photography is supremely appealing on the eyes, yet despite Meby’s claim, it is clear that the flat and dimensional spaces that his character journeys is one that is equally tangible.
Previously selected for the Berlinale Talent Campus, Meby recently netted a Special Recognition honor at the prestigious Aspen Shortsfest for World Wide Woven Bodies, and is touring major film festivals with the film. As for new work, Meby’s latest short just recently received a pair of production grants and should be shooting soon. Titled MOBIL, it deals with a young refugee trying to smuggle his family into Northern Norway.