Mark Zampella’s short film, Only Iron Rusts, starts out like an educational film strip from the 1950s, explaining the process of rust. Right around the moment when you’re confused as to why you need to know this information, the short shifts into its main narrative, the effects of rust on can-based life forms. Rust is a plague for those whose bodies are made up of cans, yet steps have been taken to lessen or eliminate the threat of rust.
And to say too much more would be to potentially ruin what those different rust-dodging techniques are, and the social and economical implications of each, which is the arena where the film is the most fun. It’s fascinating to see the world through the eyes of a can-based life form and, when you see how they view and relate to humans, they find us as equal curiosities, if not blessed (what with our meat barriers and such).
On the technical side of things, the film sticks with its educational film concept throughout, utilizing an aged, black and white film-like aesthetic that is bolstered by still images, animation and puppetry to tell its tale. The filmmakers also match that film strip feel in pace and narration, though this isn’t a case of a narrator chewing the scenery with their audio antics; it’s more subdued here, which is a nice foil for the soundtrack, which is more a case of jazz gone rampant.
Only Iron Rusts is ultimately entertaining and tragic, but so is life. Whether you’re an insect, a human or a can… person, we’ve all got our strengths and weaknesses, and the universe tends to know precisely how to work over those weaknesses. It’s adapt or die off, and the film frames the conversation in a unique way that manages to find the right balance of plight, hope, entertainment and absurdity.
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