Daily Archives: June 19, 2020

Contact (2006)

*. Clocking in at less than 10 minutes, Hanro Smitsman’s Contact (Raak) is a perfect example not just of narrative trickery but economy. What’s even more impressive is how well these two attributes reinforce each other.
*. A boy (Rik) is bullied at school. His mom (Mirna) is bullied at home. A man (Martin) is rejected as a lover. These are all people trapped in a downward spiral of “what goes around comes around.” It’s a billiard-ball vision of human physics, with social interactions reduced to the act of people shoving other people away. Which sends them spinning off until they bump into someone else who they shove away in turn, often repeating the same dismissive epithets.
*. The way the story is structured helps drive the point home: not progressing in a linear fashion, or even in reverse, but turning in a circle around a climactic moment. This makes it all the more essential to pay attention to the matter of cause-and-effect, which is the film’s theme.
*. The editing is the way this all comes together. Note how, in the early going, there are skips in the action, where Rik is walking, and then the story seems to jump ahead. This doesn’t register as much more than a way of moving things along and getting rid of some connecting tissue, but these cuts are actually important because they lead us to think of them as not being essential. But later they will be.
*. This only becomes clear on a second viewing. In the break between Rik dropping the piece of cement we cut immediately to Martin swerving his car and yelling. The way we’re used to watching movies we think the cut is taking us directly from cause to effect, but in fact we’ve changed narrative streams. In a couple of other places there is similar sleight of hand. Because Martin and Mirna are still singing in the car we think, despite those gaps I mentioned, that no time has passed between the box hitting Rik and his retaliation from the bridge. Just as, when we cut from a shot of Rik running in one place to another shot of him running in another that the action has been more or less continuous. But it can’t have been. Those gaps were considerable.
*. All of this makes Contact a near perfect small package, paradoxically both rounded off and open-ended. Where does that brick fall? Or is it falling still? It may be, as I suggested, that these characters are caught in a downward spiral, but that spiral might also be an endless loop.