So there was this short film shown at the Toronto Film Festival a lot of sites were buzzing about in late September that I only clocked the other day because I’m terrible at keeping up with film news and who looks out for short film buzz from major festivals anyhow?

Anyway, it’s called Noah and it’s a 17-minute long student movie (written & directed by Walter Woodman & Patrick Cederberg) about internet relationships, and in spite of everything I just said, it’s actually pretty compelling. It takes an interesting conceit – showing everything from the perspective of the protagonist’s Mac screen – and does a pretty effective job of replicating young people’s attention-disordered experience of using the internet while also managing to tell a coherent, if flawed, story.

Check it out here if you’re interested (but two signposts: there are Spanish subtitles because none of the original embeds I found worked any more; and Chatroulette features in the second half, so be ready for dick):

There you have it. What did you think?

I thought it was, at times, a scarily accurate reflection of modern social interactions and felt just as uncomfortable being a voyeur to Noah’s online activities as I was kind of fascinated. I’ve never hacked another Facebook account before but I can certainly relate to the kind of social paranoia that’s produced by only seeing manufactured snapshots of other people’s lives. That’s mostly why I left the other day, in fact.

The characters felt real enough, even if their actions and dialogue weren’t immediately relatable (Noah’s chat friend Kanye’s trollish patois especially made me want to hurt things), and the filmmakers do a fine job of building a sense of escalating dread until the central Pandora’s Box of a revelation which evokes a kind of cold betrayal, the likes of which are reserved for discoveries made in shoeboxes full of love letters or, indeed, private message threads.

I didn’t enjoy the last half as much as the first as it seemed to absolve Noah of his mistakes and suggest that he wouldn’t need to look outside of his computer for companionship or even his next relationship. Also, the resolution of the plot thread involving Dylan was lazy and seemed entirely tacked-on to facilitate…I’m not sure what; sympathy for Noah that he made a dumb mistake?

/Film quoted filmmaker Dan Trachtenberg as suggesting Noah could be “this generation’s John Hughes movie”, which I find very hard to swallow. Sure, there are the awkward, uncertain interactions between teenagers and a believable world for the young characters to inhabit, but the final conversation and resolution felt so much more insincere and frankly pretty cringeworthy than anything JH ever did (Maid in Manhattan aside).

Hughes’ films had their leads change into better, wiser people and make startling realisations about who they were and what they wanted, but no-one actually changes or acknowledges their own behaviour in Noah, which might actually be why it’s such an interesting (and slightly frightening) piece of work.

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