One of the best moments from last year’s underrated “Rules of Attraction” was a dazzling, 5-minute montage/travelogue of one character’s whirlwind European vacation. Visually frenetic and morally questionable, the segment left me at once giddy with vicarious fun seeking and also slightly nauseous. David Baeumler’s exceptional short film, “No Day No Night”, is like a philosophical, extended (though not by much) variation on that scene. Beyond the MTV-style cutting and chaotic pacing however, the two bear little resemblance. “NDNN” is indeed a similarly breathless pastiche of sights and sounds, though it doesn’t exactly tell a story so much as it poses questions. The Big questions. “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What is love?” “Who let the dogs out?” As such, the film is not really a work of fiction or non-fiction; it’s more like an academic postulation, and on the very meaning of existence no less.
Okay, so… no plot, no main characters, philosophically dense, entirely narrated by voice over. Sounds boring, right? Or at least like some overtly pretentious student film? “NDNN” is nothing of the sort. It’s directed, or rather edited, with such fluid grace and postmodern lyricism that it ends up being a most intriguing 17 minutes of film. Literally opening with the narration of the first two questions listed above (the last one was a joke for those confused, you know who you are), “NDNN” is divided into three segments. Preceding the first segment is a preamble about the frailty of human life, which immediately sets the tone for things to come. The first segment concerns a man named Martin who’s struggling to come to grips with a recent breakup. Martin’s memory of his relationship is like a favorite song condensed into one piercing sound. This sound is repeated continuously over still images of Martin’s ex, as they flash through his shattered mind.
The second segment is a about a nameless young woman who wanders through life as a lost and confused child. Her memories of the many places she’s been have coalesced into one overlapping, flickering image. But has she really been to these places she remembers? Was that really her in her memories? It all seems so surreal… so uncertain.
The third and final chapter of the film features a man and a woman, presumably a couple, who are only heard in voice over. The man insists that everyone around them looks familiar. Very familiar. In fact, they are all the same, different, yet the same. The narrator considers the “facts” and then concludes: there is no “you”, no “I”, no “day”, no “night”, and hence the title of this little gem.
Clearly, the hypnotic style exhibited here has become a cliché since the advent of music videos. Yet Baeumler injects new life to this “genre” with a mastery of found footage (I’m assuming) and vivid sound mixing. The questions posed here (regarding the uncertainty of memory, the mutability of identity, the end of love, the theory of synchronicity, etc.) are fascinating, though maybe not exactly revelatory. Indeed, Baeumler’s direction of the material is assured, but the real star of this show is the narrator, Kevin Silva. His diction, delivered like an existentialist public service announcer, is both captivating and at times chilling. It recalls the absurdist tone of Baz Luhrmann’s novelty hit, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”. In short, “NDNN” is a mind-blowing short from a promising new voice.