D-I-M, Deus in Machina

D-I-M, Deus in Machina (2007)

“They didn’t get it. Just appropriation of social status and spam like that.”

Today’s short film is noted for its extensive use of cgi animation in a ultra-low-budget film, but its humor and creative story of casual courage in the face of the leviathan that makes it really stand out.

Released in 2007 D-I-M, Deus in Machina is an oddly bright dystpopian sci-fi caper. Here’s how Short of the Week describes the story:

Lutz is a dreamer and malcontent in a controlled world where life is dictated by the number of social points you have. Intelligent enough to enter the prestigious Institute for Neuro-Informatics but lacking both the determination to succeed within the system and the sense that there is anything better, Lutz seeks to escape. With the help of Jannik, an ex-con and ex-dreamer who has suffered in the virtual prisons where each individual’s Hell is personalized, Lutz hatches a plan to give him what he’s always wanted, though even he realizes that the most likely outcome is a lifetime of agony.

This movie is probably one of the earliest examples of an essentially home made film to integrate a large amount of CGI with live action. And I do mean it fully integrates it, I’d guess that every shot has some sort of digital enhancement, we’re talking about interactive animated robot characters, virtual sets, the works. If I have one bone to pick with the film it’s that the filmmakers were probably a little too ambitious with the CGI. There are a couple scenes outdoors where traffic and buildings look like fairly rough animatic storyboards rather than a finished product.

There’s another type of excess that catches the film in some of the more polished scenes. When you’re dealing CGI animation, and there’s no limit to the size and scope of your sets its easy to forget that in the “real world” that you’re characters are supposed to be inhabiting, building these things would consume a lot of resources. In particular there are two consecutive scenes late in the film that take place in massive virtual environments that are just so big and, presumably, filled with so many people that they punctured my suspension of disbelief more than a little bit.

I feel a little bit bad spending all this space writing about the special effects, because while they’re a significant part of the movie, they’re not the most important thing. Brother writer/directors Axel and Henning Ricke have really created an interesting dystopia here. Its a world where the judicial system has been replaced by a giant reality TV show, and social status has been rigidly formalized with points that are hard to accrue and easy to lose for a wide variety of infractions. (Possibly too much so, but I’ll give them a pass.)

The acting is generally solid, with David Winter portraying Lutz with a combination of quick witted dissatisfaction, ambition, and laziness that I probably found a little too relatable. For a stark dystopian sci-fi story, there’s actually a lot of comedy in this short. It really manages to squeeze a lot of nice fun moments into less than a half-hour run time. It’s well worth watching.

[ D-I-M, Deus in Machina – Directed by Axel Ricke & Henning Ricke – Not Rated]

Winter Shorts seriesOM|ED Rating: Worth Seeing