To call filmmaker Philip Brocklehurst prolific would be an understatement. Every month it seems we have a new film of his to review. I’m a huge fan of his enthusiasm and as such here is our review of his latest opus the micro-short The Symbol Of Life.
The Symbol of Life is a difficult film to review. Not for any particular critical reason though just mainly because of its extremely short run time. Clocking in at just 73 seconds The Symbol Of Life is in no way the shortest film I’ve ever seen but it does suffer a little because of its run time. A major positive is that because it is based on a poem that was written by its director there is an actual through-line as well as a beginning, a middle and an end. The poem the film is based on is as follows.
Bond to my mother
Giver of my existence
It is my birthright
Without it, I would not be.
It Defines me
So like others
we are kindred
The symbol of my life
Is the symbol of all lives
The Symbol of all lives
Is the symbol of my life
Brocklehurst wrote this poem while thinking about the one connection that we all have on this planet, a connection that not only makes us all unique and kindred, but also exactly the same. The connection is of course birth and as his focus Brocklehurst chooses to emphasise the naval as a universal symbol that we can all relate too.
It’s an interesting play on the word naval-gazing which is usually a derogatory term aimed towards those of us who are considered to be self-absorbed. However, as I researched the words not only did I understand the phrase a little bit more I was also able to see what Brocklehurst was trying to symbolise with his film.
Throughout history, the actual practice of naval-gazing was used as an aid in contemplating the basic principles of the cosmos and human nature that was found in the practices of yoga and Hinduism. In yoga, the naval is the site of the Manipura which yogis consider to be a powerful chakra of the body. While in the 1830s a faction of monks in Greece, said that they experienced celestial joys when gazing on their umbilical region while conversing with a Deity.
Filmed as talking heads piece There are only two characters in The Symbol Of Life ‘Her’ and ‘Him’ Her is played by the actress Marie Brown while P.M. Thomas attacks the role of ‘Him’. They are brave roles for the actors as not only are they filmed quite close up in mid-shot style there are occasional shots of their bare stomachs. Each character takes it in turn to say a line of the poem and we are left to decipher how they are feeling while they are saying them.
The editing is a little choppy as it cuts between the two actors and the lack of shot choices is a hindrance but the mood is darkened with the occasional eerie sounding bong that has what I can only describe as children’s voices echoing on the end of each one. These sounds give a real sense of unease.
As experimental film making goes Symbol Of Life doesn’t tread any new ground but at 73 seconds long there is no excuse not to watch it.