Mathematician Henry Stoker (Nate Kutz) finds himself trapped in what appears to be a basement. Recording his thoughts on mini-cassette, Stoker explores his predicament. One door to the basement has strange sounds coming from it, and they don’t give the impression that they’re good news for Stoker. Another door appears to open to endless nothingness. There’s a safe in the room, and Stoker is convinced that opening it will lead to his escape, only he can’t recall the combination. There are two people in the room with Stoker, but he can only see them in his peripheral glances, as any attempt to focus and stare directly at them results in their disappearance.
Casey T. Malone’s short film, The Imprisonment of Henry Stoker, is a wonderful, stylistic mystery. Deciphering what is truly happening to Stoker is fun in itself, but the black-and-white look and patterned aesthetics of the Stoker’s “prison” allow enjoyment in other ways. It’s a film that welcomes multiple interpretations, but also has a very clear idea of what it is trying to say.
Visually, as I’ve mentioned, the film works mostly in black-and-white, with an interest in geometric patterns that can inspire thought and mystery (obviously a perfect choice for a mathematician’s incarceration) for its interior sequences, though there are a few exterior moments rendered in a hazy color. Some animation is mixed in, but in a way that makes perfect sense and is not indulgent for its own sake.
It’s also a film that ends on a note that compels you to want even more. Not so much for additional explanations of what you’ve seen, and what it all means, but due to a continuation of the story. There’s much more to be learned about Henry Stoker, both his past and future. And I’m hoping Malone expands upon it in future films, if it hasn’t already happened outside of my knowledge. My curiosity has been piqued, and I’m eager for more.
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