This may sound like a bleak opening to an article about a short film…but have you ever considered the worse ways to die? For many, being buried alive would be top of that list – an experience no-one would (obviously) want to have. Well, Drew Christie’s gripping eight-minute short Icebound is about to throw you headfirst into an icy pit, as it recreates the horrifying account of how one Arctic adventurer became trapped in a frozen grave.
The real-life story (although some doubt its credibility) of how Danish explorer Peter Freuchen used his own frozen excrement to escape from a survival pit he’d dug under his sleigh during a blizzard, Christie was inspired to bring this story to screen after being gifted one of the adventurer’s books. “My wife gave me a book for Christmas years ago called Vagrant Viking“, the filmmaker explains, “the stories Freuchen told in the book about his life in polar Greenland were unbelievable and they seemed so vivid and intense I felt I had to try to visualize one of them.”
Fascinated by the harsh environments in which Freuchen spent his time exploring, and what it must have felt like to be buried alive under the ice and snow, Christie set about creating his immersive tale of Arctic survival. Driven by a pulsating, rhythmic score by regular collaborator Spencer Thun, Icebound perfectly captures the desolate feel of the locations and the sheer panic Freuchen must have felt when he became trapped. With the blizzard raging above, as the explorer spends his time trapped, as viewers we’re placed in his headspace and forced to confront the thoughts raging through his mind and the strange dreamlike state he found himself slipping into.
Though the soundtrack and edit do solid work in reinforcing the immersive nature of the story and its increasing tension, Christie’s aesthetic is key in Icebound’s success. Hand-drawn and coloured in Adobe Photoshop, using Kyle Webster’s oil and pastel brushes, the greyscale style – only ever punctuated by colour dream sequences – feels like an apt production choice for recreating the frozen tundra. For final touches, the director brought the film into After Effects, where he applied “texture and film treatment” and gave it an “anamorphic lens look” and he wanted to ensure his film felt “wide and vast like the expanse of arctic ice”.
The third film of Christie’s we’ve featured on S/W, after The Beast Inside (co-directed) and The Emporer of Time, Icebound had a productive festival run, playing Shortfest and Edinburgh, before the filmmaker released the short on his YouTube channel in Early Feb 2021.