Welcome back to the Short Film of the Week!
As you can probably see, we’re doing something different today. Live action!
That’s not to say that we’ll stop doing animated films, but we’re just going to expand our scope a bit and cover all short films.
I always wanted to be somebody.
Somebody people remembered.
That’s how I got hooked.
So begins MECH: HUMAN TRIALS by Patrick Kalyn, a wild story about drugs, addiction, crime, and posthumanism. It’s perhaps one of the most interesting short films I’ve seen in a while.
Imagine if transmogrification were a drug? Imagine if you could change the structure of your body, become something more than human, something completely separate from what you were born?
You see, in this film, there are drugs, and then there’s MECH. MECH isn’t just about feeling a high or throwing down at a party. MECH rewrites your humanity. It turns you into, well, a machine.
And the addiction is strong, overpowering, all consuming. It changes you, makes you stronger, nearing invincibility. For addicts, it’s not just about becoming stronger, it’s about surpassing the bounds of humanity.
It reminds me of anabolic steroid abuse or HGH or any other substance used for physical self improvement. Because steroids aren’t just about getting bigger muscles or being able to hit a baseball farther than anyone else.
It’s about change. It’s about becoming more.
And MECH is more similar to that than it is to narcotics, which are aiming at a very different kind of sensation.
With this vigorous self improvement comes something more dangerous. This lust for becoming more that leads you on an endless journey of dissatisfaction and temporary successes also leads to the rewriting of your body, turning you into–well–a mechanised creature.
Our protagonist believes something’s growing inside him. He returns to his supplier, the only person who can provide you with these drugs, but he finds no answers.
Because of course, yeah?
This isn’t the kind of film with happy endings or easy resolutions, or even any resolutions.
Nothing grows inside him, though. His body rewrites itself. Or, rather, the drug rewrites his biomatter, turning him into a sort of mechanised monster. And this monster wants answers.
This reminds me more of Testsuo: The Ironman by Shinya Tsukamoto, but somehow this is far less strange. I mean, this is certainly not the most normal narrative or film, but it has none of the unsettling imagery or psychological distress that Tsukamoto’s films cause.
Also, I’m remembering As a Machine & Parts by Caleb J Ross, which I reviewed a few years ago at The Lit Pub. That novel, though, is more about what it means to be human. It’s a very different take of becoming a machine than MECH or Tetsuo: The Ironman, but these three things together represent very interesting and distinct twists on the same idea.
So what makes three very different artists take on the same idea in three extremely different ways? How does one simple idea spawn so many differences?
I mean, that’s art, yeah? A simple idea sort of frays and becomes a thousand different novels, films, and albums.
But back to this: it doesn’t really go anywhere or tell us anything or reveal some intrinsic truth about humanity. In fact, it almost feels more like the trailer for a film or the opening of a larger piece.
And maybe some day this will become a feature film, but, for now, it’s just this. The story doesn’t really explore the many ideas seething beneath the surface of this almost action film, but it aims at a much larger world and story.
We find that our protagonist isn’t an isolated case. He’s not the first to fall into a MECH addiction, and he likely won’t be the last. He even crosses the threshold, as it’s described, which is when you start becoming more machine than human. And certainly, he’s well past the threshold, on his way to full mech.
Rather than fall into hopelessness and despair and rather than accept his fate as a soon to be android, he sets out on revenge.
What this means isn’t really clear, since the film ends shortly after his quest for vengeance begins. He attacks one of the men following him only to discover that it’s a fully mechanised human. As he begins his vengeance, he’s told that there are more like him, more humans on their way out of humanity.
Which is a very cool idea. A drug as a plague. Transhumanism as a plague. Posthumanism as a plague. Technology as a plague.
Like robots are zombies.
And this is the kind of film and story I love. Something that aims at more but only gives you everything you need to understand what’s happening. Though the film feels like it’s only the beginning, it’s sort of best that way.
In its brevity, it finds perfection, and also just awesome grit and fun.
So watch this and think about what it means to be more than human.