The Realm of Never: Moratorium (2002) By Jonathon Pernisek

After watching a series of hopelessly inane independent short films, it’s nice to catch one’s breath and experience a project of quality and maturity like The Realm of Never: Moratorium. Written and directed by Christopher Del Gaudio, it manages to boast a thoughtful spine without seeming pretentious, and the process of its creation is extremely unique in this day and age of hyperactive editing and visual epilepsy. I don’t want to wrap up my review too quickly, however, so let’s examine this half-hour short and see what makes it stand out from the usual cinematic lot.

Whereas other films would turn me off by comparing themselves to the likes of The Twilight Zone or Dark Shadows, since such a ploy is usually equal to putting all of your eggs in one basket, The Realm of Never actually earns the right to sit side-by-side by the series it emulates. The opening is highly reminiscent of Zone in that eerie, surreal visuals are paired with the flat-toned voice of a narrator, whose job it is to deliver a monologue summarizing the coming film’s overall point. Gaudio is aware of the fine line between homage and rehash, though, so this introduction never comes off as a feeble attempt to emulate a more recognizable franchise. Instead it’s a nicely sinister and fun bit of melodrama that does a good job of leading us into his world.

The world is one much like our own, where the government slowly encroaches on our most basic freedoms in the name of fighting a mysterious and deadly enemy. The latest weapon wielded by this unnamed opponent is a highly contagious virus strain, one that must be treated immediately with a newly developed vaccination. Both the virus and the vaccination are vague forces battling for the control of mankind’s will, as evidenced by the everyman hero of our tale. He is a man who feels a “cure” for his disease will only blind him to the truth he’s discovered about humanity, namely the millennia-long plot by extraterrestrials to blend in with society and take it over from the ground up. Their plan, he realizes, has been totally successful, since they now have the ability to watch anyone via security cameras and have turned the public facile and unwilling to object to their increasing demands for servitude. Is this man crazy or all too sane? Such is the question posed by The Realm of Never.

What’s intriguing about this film is not inherently its warning of a government takeover of our lives, but rather how it uses that message as a springboard to another. By putting their all-too relevant jabs at a gleefully omnipresent administration in the format of a black and white science-fiction story, Gaudio points out how many would write his point off as being nothing more than fantastical imaginings. He feels the public doesn’t take sci-fi seriously enough to let it speak honestly about their own lives, and he expresses this by injecting his film with a blatantly soap operatic quality. The acting is dry to the point of starchiness, the sets are like something out of an Ed Wood movie, and time and again characters stop to pontificate about the world at length. It’s cheesy fare, and Gaudio knows it, making the movie a pleasure to watch.

True, after a while I did find myself getting lost in the philosophical banter, but ultimately The Realm of Never: Moratorium is a highly intelligent film worth the time of any moviegoer. It’s doubly impressive when you take into consideration how it was filmed completely in one take, lending a very professional and theatrical sensibility to what could have been an overly stylized project in the vein of Michael Bay. Thank the heavens Gaudio is a sensible director with something to say, as otherwise this could have been yet another entry in my list of short films destined for the trash can. En Passant, anyone?

If you’d like to find out more about this film you can check out the film’s website at http://www.powerofcohesion.com.