I’m just going to go ahead and say it: Grounded is a weird short film. When I say Grounded is weird, though, I’m not really talking about its subject matter so much as what it is. In short films sometimes you have tight, cohesive stories, and sometimes you have these strange art-house collections of images that are supposed to tie into a particular theme and convey some type of emotion or statement in a more abstract way. Or, barring that, just look pretty. That’s the really odd thing about this short — you can’t tell whether it is one or the other.
Any other setting and you’d think that of course this was an art-house flick. Thanks to Stanley Kubrick and his bizarre interpretation of the end of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: The Year We Make Contact, whenever we see something odd like this that happens to take place in a sci-fi setting (especially if it’s an alien setting) we don’t know whether it is some sort of weird psychedelic trip inside the mind of the subject whose brain is having trouble interpreting an alien environment/presence or if maybe we’ve just been fooled into thinking that an art film is telling a traditional narrative when it’s not. Unfortunately the director’s description on Vimeo is just as ambiguous.
One astronaut’s journey through space and life ends on a hostile exosolar planet. Grounded is a metaphorical account of the experience, inviting unique interpretation and reflection by the viewer. Themes of aging, inheritance, paternal approval, cyclic trajectories, and behaviors passed on through generations are explored against an ethereal backdrop.
Metaphorical account of the experience according to what? Is it a metaphor for the viewer, or is it the astronaut’s internal metaphor as his brain is being deprived of oxygen on the surface of an alien world? Why do we need a metaphor for this experience which has never happened in the first place? Why such weird seemingly unrelated metaphors at that? If the first guy’s helmet isn’t cracked, why are the rest of the helmets cracking? Is this really the story of a crashed space explorer, or did an astronaut get a hold of Tesla’s machine from The Prestige? What happens when the astronaut finally lands on a planet-sized squishy pile of corpses and lives?
Perhaps I’m thinking too deeply about this film, but the digital effects and direction are sooo top notch that, regardless of what it truly is, Grounded is worth the watch.