"Marcus, a winemaker, is haunted by his past as a gladiator."
Gladius is an intense short film created by eight artists at French school ESMA that offers a portrait of an ex-gladiator who is coping with the consequences of his actions.
Staged in ancient times, in the fields and in a gladiator’s arena, Gladius offers a highly psychological narrative with heightened subjectivity. It features one main character (with 4 supporting characters plus a crowd), external conflicts that transform into an internal one, frequent flashbacks, carefully crafted transitions and an accent on fighting/action sequences.
A stylized aesthetic is employed with markedly different color palettes and lighting for the shots taking place in the fields (present time) and the flashbacks. Impressive work has been dedicated to environment and character designs, as well as to framing and composition. Aesthetic work is remarkable, a production method that allowed 8 artists to work on the same film shows through in this regard. The fog employed in the flashbacks helps present the subjective narration of the Marcus character, together with sound design (internal sounds such as breathing are employed). The main character’s expressiveness and body language play a significant role in building conflict.
Tighter framing is frequently employed in the short, in line with the subjective narration, and to help build visual rhythm in the fighting sequences. Camera moves abound: dollies, zooms, pans, tilts, camera shakes, etc., coupled with editing and motion within the frame help build dynamic action sequences. The attention dedicated to stitching together transitions between present time and flashbacks is worth mentioning, they’re notably smooth and work very well in transmitting the character’s psychological states. The effort spent on the choreography of the fighting sequences is worth noting, too.
What makes the short work so well? Remarkable aesthetic work, expressive main character, non-realistic staging used to craft subjective narration, a good dose of surprises, great editing and transitions, and an ending that offers a chance for redemption.