De_Riria_Subasutaimu is a surreal and abstract short film about grief. It shows a husband and wife dealing with it in different ways.
Just in case you haven’t watched it yet, here’s the short film:
The film is specifically about the grief of pregnancy/child loss. This grief is presented in both a surreal state and a more grounded manner through parallel storylines of a husband and wife. The surreal is portrayed through the dreamlike journey of the husband, which is a mix of escapism, depression and resilience.
Much of the husband’s visual storytelling is consisted of repetitive and rhythmic imagery. Even the though the journey is abstract, the strong use of rhythm and repetition organizes the composition. This organized composition is a visual progression that leads the audience along this dreamlike journey.
The wife’s story is more grounded but not without strong composition. Since she stays in her hospital room, much of her emotions are expressed by adding, subtracting, and changing visual information.
The film begins with a lateral tracking shot that stops at the above static shot. Immediately the film establishes a melancholic tone. Seeing the IV bags, the wife lying on the bed and the husband’s sad body language communicates sorrow quite effectively. The large negative space and the use of ray of light (from the window) as a leading line isolate the couple and further accentuate the feeling of sorrow.
The shot above also establishes the use of repetition and rhythm as evident by the diagonal shafts of light coming from the ceiling. The dynamic nature of the diagonal line and its repetition aids in the emotional expression of the shot.
The husband leaves the hospital and the audience gets to follow him with the use of a tracking shot. The low angle magnifies and emphasizes his grief as we follow along. He then looks off screen to an empty lot. The overhead of the empty lot shows just the foundation, made up of randomly sized rectangles, perhaps symbolizing his jumbled mental state. He then jumps in to begin his surreal escape from the reality of pregnancy loss.
The first stage of the journey was the simplest one. It’s consisted of him just walking. I believe this was done to ease the viewers into the journey without being too jarring. The repetitive images here are the light bulbs, bottom windows and the terrace steps.
Most of the stages end with a scene of the wife in the hospital which documents her own process of grief. At the end of the first stage, the wife wakes up and stares at what can be assumed as an ultrasound picture. The slow shot reverse shot suggests she’s not aware of their child loss. While she’s yet to deal with reality, the husband is running away from it.
The second stage is a tower with outside stairs. The wide shot communicates every necessary visual information, the ominous height, the steps connection the entrance/exit, the repetition and rhythm.
From here on out almost every stage tempts the husband to jump into the pit of despair. In this stage it’s symbolized by the dead body in the middle of the stairway. He avoids it as another step emerges above it.
As mentioned before the journey is a mix of escapism, depression and resilience. The grim temptations are the depression. The ability to avoid these temptations is the resilience.
The wife still hasn’t confronted reality yet. The time lapse shot seems to suggest that she’s just delaying dealing with reality. This notion is very relevant in the next stage.
The husband moves on to a subway platform. He sees a woman who seems to be in same predicament as he is. A train passes by (repeating image); he grabs a hold of it while the woman doesn’t. The scene switches to a low angle shot and the woman is now the wife but she still doesn’t grab hold. The train symbolizes different things for both. For the husband it’s a way to escape, which he takes, and for the wife it’s a way to move on. The low angle accentuates the speed of the train and the wife’s inability to grab hold of reality and move on.
In this scene, the wife caresses her stomach and finally realizes the reality of her pregnancy loss. She then collapses in despair. The scene initially maintains the low angle from the previous train scene; this angle and the canted angle add more impact to this pivotal point.
The fourth stage is in the woods, populated with black trees with horizontal white lines as the repetitive imagery. The stage offers him an escape from this grim environment by leading him on top of a skyscraper, almost as if tempting him to jump.
The doctor shows up to officially deliver the harrowing reality. He’s almost portrayed like a grim reaper, a scary embodiment of bad news. The use of negative space and wide shot to show the slow long walk conveys a distressing tension. Also notice the far more intense diagonal lights, which complement the sense of distress.
In this stage he climbs up a wall. The initial lack of visual information on the right side builds anticipation for the eventuality of him jumping to that side. What waited for him on the other side was an arm. Will it grab a hold of him? Or will it let go? Just like the dead body it’s another temptation that he avoids.
This scene demonstrates the addition of visual information. What previously was a single window room now has four. This was done to further express the strong warm-cool color contrast between the green room and the pink cherry blossoms outside. The wife is cold to the warm and beautiful scenery outside as she is consumed by grief and pain. The imagery of her despair really sets in when she turns to a shadow and the pink (warm) petals that pass her by turn to green (cold).
I’m skipping the husband scene since it’s a repetition of other stages just with different scenery.
While the husband continues to escape reality, the wife continues to deal with the pain of pregnancy loss. Although in her little way she attempted to escape reality by trying to hypnotize herself. The slanted window in the first shot reflects this delusion. When she finally realizes the futility, the window goes back to its normal orientation as a sign of her acceptance.
Skipping the husband scene again.
The wife has finally come into terms with her loss and ready to move on. She looks at the ultrasound picture for the last time. She lays it face down, which reveals a sketch of a house that symbolizes the home and family she and her husband were trying to build.
This stage presents to the husband his dream of building a family and home. A house continues to symbolize this dream. He runs towards that house and passes by objects (bed, cabinet, bathtub and etc.) that make up a normal home. He’s seemingly chasing a dream but when he trips off the spinning wheel he realizes that it’s all an illusion.
The last scene of the wife starts with a fadeout from black, a visual metaphor of the her emergence from the dark place that was pain and despair. She stands up, smiles, and moves on. The smile can also be interpreted as her instinctual realization that her husband is coming out of his escapist delusion.
Just like the last stage, this one presents objects (toilet seats) associated with home life. Unlike in other stages, the husband ignores his surrounding and just walks by them. This is a sign that he’s done with his escapist journey and ready to face the pain and despair of the reality of child loss.
The husband emerges from the empty lot and goes back to their apartment. The wide shot of the homogeneous architecture of the apartment is quite a contrast to his dream home. This contrast is pieces of reality coming together for him. In the second image, you’ll notice a shadow of a child, which is an illusion of what could have been. The fact that it had no effect shows his resolve to face reality.
Throughout this film we never saw the husband look at the ultrasound picture and confront reality just like his wife did. In the first image above he finally looks at his unborn child and the final piece of reality has come into place. In the last shot, the spreading tea stain can be interpreted as all the pain and sorrow flooding in.