It’s the beginning of the end in writer-director Lukasz Rog’s sci-fi short No Stars Anymore. It’s the story of Jemma (Magdalena Kozikowska-Pienko), the lone female member of a U.S. Special Forces S.W.A.T team. For days, she has been haunted by frightful images of an uncertain future triggered by the frenetic video images that seem taken directly from the news cycles. These images include Jemma standing over the dead bodies of her team and the very real snapshot of a burning pyre with an ominous talisman next to the fire.
Unable to sleep, our protagonist’s attempt at rest is futile and thankfully interrupted by a mysterious assignment. Jump to Jemma preparing for her team’s assault on a warehouse. False alarm, but the mission is not over, and the planes flying overhead are foreboding. Now, the team moves onto the next target, strange happenings occur, leading to an even more bizarre discovery.
“…frightful images of an uncertain future…include Jemma standing over the dead bodies of her team…”
No Stars Anymore is about Jemma, and the story ratchets up the intense feelings and anxiety she feels heading into a mission that she feels her team (and herself) may not survive. Again, Rog does an excellent job creating similar emotions in us as an audience. My only complaint is that the film needed to go much further and make grander attempts to play with our feelings.
As it stands, the movie feels like the long establishing shot we see in many films. What’s missing are the close-up shots and false jump-scares. These are important because they can build the heightened levels of anxiety and fear needed to creep us out when the final reveal is made. The situation is already anxiety-inducing, so now the filmmaker’s job is to turn the screws and permanently scar the audience at the end.
No Stars Anymore does a good job telling a story of doom, and lead Magdalena Kozikowska-Pienko is good as the subject of the story’s anxiety. My only wish is that the movie went further with the thrills, which requires what most indie productions don’t have: money.
"…ratchets up the intense feelings and anxiety..."