"An alien is on a mission to classify planets."
The Archivist is a short film about an alien on a mission to classify planets and collect information about their demise. The short was created by five artists at the Valenciennes branch of French school RUBIKA (Supinfocom). One main character, a SciFi theme and an enigmatic, slowly revealing script that shows remnants of humanity are the basic elements of this short.
Located in outer space and on Earth sometime in the future, The Archivist employs staging as a key element to unfold its story. After showing an exterior location with stairs and a building that could’ve been made by humans, the short confirms that the place is indeed Earth by showing its recognizable shape on the alien’s device. No conflict is present, but the various elements planted through staging augment suspense and lead viewers to ask why the place is empty and what happened to humans, effectively hooking the viewer.
The camera is used in an exploratory way. Rather than being focused on emotions to transmit conflict it follows the archivist and its three spheres to reveal the various environments. Wider shots abound (extreme long shots, long shots, etc.), with a few tighter shots to transmit the actions of the archivist, since the story is narrated from his point of view. Aesthetic work is worth highlighting, as The Archivist features some really wonderful shots with a lot of work dedicated to composition of elements in the frame, including use of chiaroscuro as well as careful camera placements, employing overhead or worm’s-eye view shots.
Visual rhythm is normal and increases as the color palette shifts to warm hues, but camera moves are prevalent throughout the short (most of the time they’re quite smooth). Visual rhythm is handled through editing, motion within the frame (the addition of the 3 spheres helps in this regard), camera moves (dollies, cranes, zooms, pans, tilts, etc.) and lighting. Good work has been dedicated to transitions and editing, the graphic match cut on 2.15 is worth mentioning.
Sound design is worth highlighting, too, as it plays a prominent role in the film, creating SciFi soundscapes and helping increase the tension as the short progresses.
What makes it work so well? Creativity, surprise, great aesthetic work, subdued humor (you can find a reference to Star Wars in the planet classifications, among other comedic elements) and an enigmatic script that hooks the audience.