Vallum (2012) – By Matthew Saliba

The best short films are the ones that don’t try to pack a feature-length story within the time frame of 10-15 minutes. They’re the ones that are generally driven by an idea or a “gimmick” and then working backwards to create a story that leads to the “punch line.”

“Vallum” by Chase Wright is one such film.

The story or concept of the piece is simple enough. A turn of the century teen named Arkanum is imprisoned in a room with only a rat in a cage for a companion. The rat runs around on his spinning wheel, while the wheels in Arkanum’s head equally spin as he attempts to discover different ways to break out. After trying for the umpteenth time to escape, he more or less gives up, and illustrates this by freeing his only friend and perhaps his last link with sanity. However, the rat is not without gratitude for when the teen frees him via a hole in the wall located behind the cage, a bright light shines revealing a key that the boy can use to escape. But does he escape to greener pastures, or perhaps to a prison of even greater doom and despair?

“Vallum” is exactly what every short film ought to be but most fail to achieve. It’s a simple story full of ripe symbolism that will have you contemplating it long after the end credits finish rolling. It’s also an exquisitely shot film featuring plenty of sumptuous black-and-white cinematography with some patches of color here and there (a la “Sin City”). The music is also quite nice and very befitting of the “silent film” aesthetic Wright is going for here.

The film can be viewed online at: http://vimeo.com/39393805