Luke Masella’s 9-minute Up and Down is an astute character study of its protagonist, a man who might as well be the only person existing in the room. Obsessed with fitness and bulk, the young man appears to drown out everything else besides his own self-image.
The man (Aaron Latta-Morissette) is shown in the middle of his workout routine. Everything else is in shallow focus. His spotter (Giovanni Ore) is either shown neck down, or out of focus and part of the tuned out background to the man’s personal narrative. He does not remember the young boy’s name and has to ask: Giovanni, not Paul.
The man is hyped up, bench-pressing past his limits, and intending to push himself harder. The tight framing cuts out most of his background, blurred as it is. He is competing with himself, this much is clear. Standing in front of the mirror in between sets, he talks to his reflection. The self-talk, however, smells a lot like bullying. In turn, the bullying sounds like a hand-me-down, as though he is repeating what has already been uttered by someone else. His own figure taking up most of the frame, the man’s reality is one of consuming the self to reach an idea of the ideal.
When Giovanni asks an innocuous question, this reality faces rupture. As though the man had been going further down his own consciousness so as to stave off the danger of other people, this single question becomes his undoing. The fragile, puffed up control he had been exerting is instantly made impotent. Though overaggressive, he is also pitiable at this point, repeatedly seeking the reassurance that Giovanni—a timid underage boy—is ill-equipped to provide. And even now, Giovanni is a mere agent of the man’s fall and not a person in his own right. Giovanni’s face is never seen in detail.
The narrative returns to normal eventually, but the facade is a little more cracked, the man all the more determined to conquer his feelings of inadequacy. A tragic character, he stands guard at his own prison cell.
Watch Up and Down Short Film
Up and Down: The Unravelling of a Routine and the Self it Protects