A man casually retrieves his cellphone from the carpeted floor of his apartment and silences a call….Oh, and also, the room is dripping wet, littered with fallen furniture, and flies are swarming the carcasses of dead animals.
Frederic Siegel’s short film, Ruben Leaves, mixes the banal with the surreal. Following the work commute of a young man (Ruben), the film dives into the inner-workings of a mind crippled by obsessive-compulsive thoughts. What seems like a fairly average morning routine quickly turns into a series of nightmarish scenarios that makes the viewer question reality.
It is exactly this mystery and uneasiness that makes the film so captivating. The story shifts forward and backward, from reality to fantasy, in an effortlessly disorienting way, forcing the viewer into a tense, anxious, confused state of mind similar to Ruben’s.
While using the shades of just three colors paired with roughly hewn shapes and forms, Siegel creates a surprising level of visual depth. Motion parallax as well as cinematic camera movements and framing, elevate the visual intrigue of an otherwise flat, sparsely detailed illustration style.
Despite the film’s disjointed narrative, fluid transitions seamlessly blend the events together. Siegel’s painterly strokes flow and morph into new objects without missing a beat (Ruben’s hair becomes the inner mechanisms of a lock, 1:57) while quick, hard cuts and clever match cuts maintain the film’s pacing (the spark of a lighter becomes the flame of a stove, 2:36).
The use of sound also unites and elevates the film. From the buzzing of flies to the splashing of water, the immersive foley gives texture to materials and adds drama to movements. The sound draws the viewer into and out of scenes and sets the emotional tone of the film.
Ruben Leaves is a creative take on the twisted thought processes of the human mind, one that is both visually and intellectually engaging, and which may unnervingly strike a chord with the stresses and worries of our own hectic lives.