Reincarnation. Heaven or Hell. Absolutely nothing. The question of what happens to us when we die is one of the greatest mysteries of humankind. If you’re religious you’ll believe there is something else, something after this life, but for atheists or agnostics, death signals the end. With proof never likely to be available, it will remain one of life’s greatest puzzles, one that even the brightest minds will find impossible to answer and one that will continue to cause debate for centuries. Themes this grand surely can’t be tackled in short film, can they? Ben Brand thinks they can and along with a little help from author Andy Weir (The Martian) he tackles the afterlife, and the meaning of all that came before it, in thought-provoking short Re-entry.
“It’s about life, death, who we are and what we do”
After reading Weir’s short story The Egg, Brand admits he was “blown away” and instantly knew he had to translate it to screen. “I wanted to make a film about it because it’s about everything I love”, the filmmakers reveals, “it’s about life, death, who we are and what we do. It gave me goosebumps and I hope the film will do the same.”
Opening with the line “you were on your way home when you died” (the same opening line as Weir’s story), within the first 30-seconds of Brand’s film the tone and our expectations have been set. An existential piece, Re-entry certainly isn’t what you’d label “light entertainment”, but the filmmaker does a great job of ensuring his film never gets bogged down by the weight of its themes. This isn’t a film wallowing in the morbid associations of death but instead celebrating the wondrous complexities of life, even when they don’t make sense.
Shot over a three month period in three different continents (something that seems unfathomable under life’s current COVID restrictions), Brand knew his film needed to have an aesthetic which felt as expansive as its storyline and the filmmaker certainly delivers in this department. Featuring some impressive photography, shot by cinematographer Maxime Desmet, the multi-location production certainly instils Re-entry with a grand feel for a short film, but like most shorts there were still compromises the director had to make.
“We had a large budget for a short film”, Brand explains as we discuss the production needed to bring Re-entry to the screen, before adding that it was still “far from enough for the film I wanted to make”. Armed with an Arri Alexa Mini and a set of anamorphic lenses, owned by Desmet, the pair travelled to the deserts of Namibia, the destroyed city of Mosul in Iraq, the jungles (and city) of Thailand and locations in Belgium and the Netherlands, to shoot the film.
Describing the shoot as a “tough but amazing experience”, Brand employed non-actors (only the two main characters are portrayed by professional actors) on his travels to help create the expansive view of life captured in Re-entry. All combined, his approach works to create an interesting and impressive take on Weir’s story – a tale we already know the online audience has a great thirst for. Whether Brand’s live-action version will have the same impact as the animated iteration, only time will tell. One thing we do know though, with Re-entry, Brand’s third short featured on S/W (after 97% and Life is Beautiful), he’s certainly a filmmaker with a diverse voice and one we shall eagerly be awaiting more short films from in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future.
For now, he’s working on some “interesting commercials”, as he admits he’s “totally broke” after making this short. He’s also in the process of developing two series’ and a feature – for more of his work, check out his website below 👇