“CARONTE” at DUST by Luis Tinoco (March 2, 2021, 14:04 min): “A self-absorbed teenager somehow contacts another universe after she’s injured in a car accident.” Language warning.
The initial plot development is laudably clearer than that of many short DUST entries. Minimizing spoilers, it’s apparent early on that the heroine is not really a lieutenant in a space force. So what is happening in those scenes is happening either an alternative universe or all in her head. The characters are well imagined and portrayed and the real life scenes are deftly executed.
The film ends as it must — not happily but inevitably, and with at least some sense of redemption.
Quibble: There is way too much profanity. It gets in the way of dialogue. Some might respond, “People under stress really speak that way.” Maybe so, but that fact doesn’t turn profanity into art. The secret of art is not a “slice of life,” as some believe, but a judicious selection from life. And too much of anything is injudicious.
About “alternative universe or all in her head”: Sci-fi can work quite well as an imaginative exercise or dream. The principle then is the same as with well-executed ghost stories. Ideally, it should never be clear that the ghost really exists. If key characters act as if the ghost exists, that’s quite good enough and spares potential absurdities.
A writing instructor might put it like this: “Don’t naturalize your ghost.” If he is really a character, why is he a ghost anyhow?
It’s the same with the alternative universe in science fiction. It should never be quite clear to everyone that it really exists. If it does, it is just another region in our joint reality. That’s fine but then we are back in the mundane world. If it is to remain an alternative universe, the characters should only ever have, at best, one foot in a truly different world. “CARONTE” manages that element well.
Other reviews from the “We are but DUST” files:
Sci-fi Saturday: “This planet is not in our co-ordinates.” A space courier crew gets a surprise when delivering a mysterious machine to a strange planet. One could almost see something like “McPherson’s Toys” happening, , as an office gag, but 500 years from now.
Sci-fi Saturday: A future where dreams have been privatized Unfortunately, the dream Carlos wants is to see his missing family again and that’s illegal … More dystopia than science fiction but the post-5G surveillance environment amid mass poverty and oppression is well imagined.
Sci-fi Saturday: What if sweet sleep were a distant memory? In a world going mad and dying from insomnia, a young woman may have a cure. The big challenge in writing about insomnia is not to be a cure for it. From the harrowing opening scene on, this film certainly clears that bar.
Sci-Fi Saturday: When virtual friends are a real addiction This animated short begins with the thirtieth birthday party of a rather glum young man.
As is the way with addicts, our hero cannot use his futurist fix for loneliness responsibly and ends up doing desperate things.
Sci-Fi Saturday: Watch what you wish for. There IS a tomorrow! Carl, a lonely guy, is determined to proceed through the warning and try the Luvsik procedure, to make him fall in love at first sight. The short film features strong performances by Momo Dione and Samantha Lester, and the surprise ending avoids cliché.
Sci-Fi Saturday: We have met the aliens and they are… comb jellies. The alien life form, when it appears, is very well imagined.
Definitely watch it for the sense of isolation when our technology bubble evaporates and for the “comb jelly” space alien.
Sci-fi Saturday: The disabled robot vet gets a job grooming cats. Definitely worth your five minutes, in part in order to see what cartoonists can do in sci-fi with animated stills. In a research paper, Max Planck scientists concluded that it is not possible to hobble the danger from intelligent AI. This film offers a good illustration.
Sci-fi Saturday: A girl with kinetic powers faces a choice. Should she help relatives with activities she knows to be wrong? “Kinetic” is well executed but it breaks a fundamental rule of science fiction: There must be a clear science basis for the story premise.
Sci-fi Saturday: An asteroid lingers near Earth and devours time Or, at any rate, it devours our perception of time, as one man discovers. Flyby: As the asteroid Chrono-7 hazes Earth, a man wakes up in the morning to find that he is living in his future, one he had never imagined.
Sci-fi Saturday: A robot helps an old fellow rediscover life The robot is very well done and how he gets a name is charming. Lots of people abandon their elderly relatives, of course, so finding a helpful robot in the back yard is a pleasant fantasy.
Sci-fi Saturday: What if an old man could see his mother again? It is a hard film to watch if you lost a loved one, but worthwhile. The old man is paying to use his own memories, retrieved via neuroscience imaging.
Sci Fi Saturday: A fight for the winning ticket In a 2040 superstorm, engulfing the planet, a young woman gets hold of a ticket out. But does the way out really exist? Or is she just hanging on and clinging to a fragile hope?
Sci Fi Saturday: Terrified by a Scrap Monster Well, if you have never been terrified by a Scrap Monster, you are clearly missing out. It’s fun watching a middle class South Korean business executive try to cope with the Scrap Monster.
Sci Fi Saturday: What if there were serious wars over clouds? In a world that still has technology but is desperately short of water, such wars could happen. The short sci-fi film Oceanmaker features pirates who steal precious water from the clouds and a pilot who challenges them
Sci Fi Saturday: Can video games save a lone survivor? The film features fine animations of apocalyptic scenes of post-civilization. The “game” that turns out to be an existential struggle usually benefits from a longer treatment but the animation is well imagined.
Sci Fi Saturday: Can a Robot Find a Better Planet Than Earth? The trouble is, the robot is governed by Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics. After 55 habitable planets, the—by then very old—fellow is beginning to suspect something about the robot’s judgment.
Sci Fi Saturday: Kiko: A great short but key questions unanswered A lonely retail service robot longs for a world beyond her store. An agreeable short but it never addresses the question of how Charlie acquired a robot that would “want” something different than its programming.
Sci-fi Saturday: What if next-stage evolution children appear?A sci-fi short from Sri Lanka looks at the possibilities. The story is very well done as a parable of the social risks of continuous internal warfare.
Sci-Fi Saturday: Can parents get back a dead child as an android? They aren’t even united in their grief; they just think they must “do something” to get back a facsimile of what they remember. They have no philosophical or spiritual resources to fall back on in order to avoid this dead end.
Sci-Fi Saturday film: The robot tries to learn about grief An elderly woman buys a robot to help her when she finds herself all alone, due to tragedy. Investigating the woman’s unhappiness, the robot discovers more than it was, perhaps, intended to know.