We’ve all been to at least one fancy dress party and seen the atmosphere turn sour. Mixing heavy drinking sessions and raw emotions rarely results in a positive morning after. For Jonathan Entwistle’s wonderful short film Human Beings, he’s managed to link various animal attributes to typical coming-of-age archetypes in this post-modern fable.
Set in a house party before expanding to gorgeous landscapes, we follow two youths on their way to an animal fancy dress party in a lavish countryside manor. These pill popping, party-hungry youngsters – Benny (Ben-Ryan Davis) and Aaron (Vahid Gold) – head off into the evening’s sun sporting perfunctory zebras costumes by way of Primark or Topshop with glimmers of inspiration derived from Bunny Boy’s more earnest costume design in Harmony Korine’s Gummo. A mixture of cheap booze and shoddy narcotics during the party churns our lead Benny up, and dumps him in the back seat of a car on the countryside hilltops with muddled memories and a bad headache.
As is expected from any coming-of-age story, Benny is notably distracted early on by an ethereal girl. Catching glimpses of Jamie, played by Harriet Cains, at the party, Benny looks to make amends for previous encounters (which we are only slightly hinted at). Amongst the varied creature costumes Jamie stands out as the unicorn, drawing attention from more predators than Benny. What follows it a rather apt portrait of ‘houseparty culture’ that favours bad decisions, tacky choices, and corrosive behaviour.
Shortlisted for the 2012 Vimeo Awards as well as receiving a nomination for 2013 Short of the Week, it isn’t difficult to see that Entwistle has a strong visual aesthetic with inspired pastel cinematography created by Justin Brown. Brown shot the film on 35mm with an ARRI camera, which in today’s digital world adds more warmth to the visuals. From the many feral costumes that have been individually personalised, to the absolutely stunning British countryside landscapes, each frame is a pleasure for the eyes. The soundtrack is an alluring combination of indie pop and Brit pop grounding the home grown feeling that Human Beings conveys. All the ingredients mix to demonstrate Entwistle’s cine-literate skill as a director.