“Have you ever wondered what the sky looks like?” says Sean Russel’s character in Ramesh Iyer’s science-fiction short film, “Subterranean.”
Sean Russel and Daniel Raymont play two young men who have never seen the light of day. They’ve spent their entire lives living underground. Once Grandfather dies, the two are all alone. While Raymont sternly accepts that the outside world has been destroyed, Russel is curious. He doesn’t want to believe that the earth is an uninhabited, radioactive wasteland. He wants to leave the Subterranean, and thus begins his journey.
The film’s basic premise will doubtlessly be compared to that of other sci-fi works which explore the semi-biblical battle between the bliss of Ignorance and the curse of Forbidden Knowledge. “THX-1138”, “Logan’s Run”, and several of Robert Holmes’ penned “Doctor Who” episodes spring to mind. However, Iyer has a unique minimalist approach. This Subterranean world is barren; almost totally devoid of human life it seems.
Visually, Iyer makes excellent use of available resources. Shot within what appears to be the catacombs of a Power Station, “Subterranean” resists the use of set construction or overly stylized art direction in order to create its location. It feels industrial. It feels mechanical. Lit with fluorescent lights, this concrete Underworld is filled with endless rows of steel pipes, fuse boxes, ventilation shafts, and dark passageways. Photographed by Stephanie Cojot-Goldberg, the camera is as much of an explorer as our protagonist. With wide angled compositions and smooth tracking shots, Goldberg elegantly investigates the subterranean corridors with a detailed eye.
In the opinion of this viewer, I felt “Subterranean” left off with a cliffhanger, and quite an effective one at that. I felt as if I had only just watched the first act of a very interesting saga. As such, I shall look forward to perhaps seeing a “Subterranean II” one day.