Paul Trillo’s venture into paranoia, The Irrational Fear of Nothing, is just as the title describes; one man’s fear of everything and everyone around him. We open with a man lying in bed, the camera in bed with him also, the setting is bleak and grey. Then, quite surprisingly, the camera moves as he does, from the same angle, perfectly timed. A sense of threat looms over the screen. The narrator speaks, a running thought process of the man we see before us who prepares himself for another day of bland existence. Even though we only see his apartment in fleeting shots, it has no personality, it’s dull and standard and slightly cluttered- much like the inside of the man’s mind. He heads out to the streets of Manhattan and begins his journey, his every thought spilling out of his mind with each flustered and almost frantic step.
We experience the world the way that he does, every turn, every gaze, every step the camera twists and turns to keep him centre frame. This is thanks to the Snorricam rig, to which an Olympus OMD EM5 II is strapped, allowing us to become a shadow of our central character. The rig goes around his waist and out from his back allowing that central focus point to remain the same, and capturing any sharp movements he makes. The distortion around the edges of the shots heightens the paranoia we increasingly feel along the journey, an instability in the characters mental state and a confusion in the viewers mind. Each new environment or corner he turns sparks a new thought and new cause for concern in his mind, this instantly makes the viewer over-think and start questioning their everyday choices.
‘It’s like I’m watching myself walk’; this line is particularly important because it’s what Trillo is inviting us to do- to walk a few blocks in the characters shoes, to experience everyday life as he does from an absolute POV perspective, to open the senses to fully immerse yourself in this man’s mind, no matter how banal or intense his thoughts become.
Sound is used to heighten this feeling of disillusionment and although it might not be intentional, simply a feature of the lead’s accent, but the pronunciation of his T’s and sharp hissing of his S’s are piercing and itchy, his stream-of-consciousness narration a skin-crawling irritant in the viewers ears. The sweeping classical score increases the drama, with creeping pianos reaching full volume when the man’s anxieties build up in each environment.
Then suddenly we freeze, the shot warps and purple and pink tones are blended and moving around the man, and the narration speaks about disciplining your brain to transcend time, where you can re-experience memories over and over. Suddenly, this might not be a film about a man experiencing the mundanities of life, but of a man repeating the same memories over and over, like Groundhog Day. A man trapped in time.
For me, the film became as foggy as the man’s mind at this point. Was he a time traveller? Was he using a made up sci-fi scenario as a coping mechanism to deal with his unsatisfying life? Was his train of thought simply running away? I couldn’t pin-point it. Or maybe that was the point. The build-up of anxieties and made-up scenarios in one’s head soon become nothing more than white noise, a sound you become unable to drown out and one that begins to consume the audience.
The Irrational Fear of Nothing is a highly effective and innovative case study of the human psyche, utilising technological advancements to enhance and further a story beyond the reaches of a traditional camera and tripod set up. However I believe that despite a small budget we could have really stepped into the man’s shoes by not allowing the man to look like he was wearing a rig- creating a slit in his jacket would have been a simple task to stop it bunching around the pole. Sound plays on the distortion seen from the camera and rapidly comes to a crescendo, a maddening finale simmering down to complete calm as the man’s face is finally revealed.
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of Screenqueens. She is 20 and from the north of England (the proper north). She believes Harmony Korine is the future and is pretty sure she coined the term ‘selfie central’. She doesn’t like Pina Coladas or getting caught in the rain but she does like Ezra Miller a whole lot. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, The Beach and Lords of Dogtown. But DON’T talk to her about Paranormal Activity. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff.
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