Seven years after an unnamed apocalypse, lone survivor Edgar (along with his beloved puppy, K.O) wander a urban wasteland. Edgar spends his days scouring local buildings for supplies and marking contaminated zones with spray paint warnings and signals for help.
From the first frame the audience is taken on a brutal journey of brutal isolation as we follow Edgar (Orial Pla) through the cold and decaying cityscape, both depressing and still strangely beautiful. And that, right there, is perhaps the greatest charm of the film.
Directordoes a masterful job at creating a stark, bitter, but still utterly believable world. captures not only the grand sense of loss but the simple, even monotonous existence of his protagonist. Throughout I was constantly reminded of the feel of first half of I Am Legend (in the best possible way). Special kudos to for his research, as Edgar’s own warning symbols bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the FEMA marking system used during actual disasters.
A fantastic job is done of showing the mundane, day-to-day “chores” of living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Which is something I’ve ironically always found to be one of the most interesting parts of the genre, but I’m weird like that.
What makes the entire film even more impressive is that the obliterated landscape was actually shot on an obliterated landscape. Specifically the legendary town of Pripyat, which you might recognize as the Ukrainian village hastily evacuated during the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. Seeing as how much of the local area remains terrifyingly irradiated, there has got to be some special credit to the cast and crew for managing to make the film and lug their enormous cajones around with ’em the entire time.
As with the scenery, Edgar’s routine feels incredibly believable- which might actually be part of the problem.
The entire crux of the film lies within a wall in Edgar’s makeshift home. Upon returning one day, Edgar is shocked to find a single name – “Anna” spray painted on the wall. Edgar writes his own name below, and what begins is a long back-and-forth between him and an unseen survivor, spray painting the wall while Edgar is out.
And of course, the questions begin.
Why doesn’t the survivor wait for Edgar? Why doesn’t Edgar try to catch the survivor? Can’t Edgar just track the other individual’s footprints through the snow if they’re the only folks around?
It’d be easy to brush these questions aside with a sweeping declaration of “magical realism”, but so much effort has been placed into making the film feel real that it’s actually difficult to suspend disbelief. The more lighthearted back-and-forth graffiti on Edgar’s wall simply doesn’t jive well with the more gritty, down-to-earth portions of the rest of the film. And that uneven feel unfortunately means that a lot of the film’s more emotional moments just don’t pack the punch they should. I’d even go so far as to accuse some of the more crucial moments (I’m looking at you, teddy bear scenes) of feeling a little forced.
The absence of information definitely does lend itself to audience interpretation, and bothand Pla do an excellent job of providing the audience with clues, rather than hammering ’em over the head with exposition. Nevertheless, some indication of why Anna can’t meet Edgar directly may have been more effective if the nature of the “event” had been made more clear. I always appreciate it when a director doesn’t spoonfeed me the plot, but some more clues (even if they obscure the plot) might have helped give the entire film a more cohesive tone and smoothed over some of the holes in the narrative.
In spite of those issues, Graffiti must absolutely be commended for managing to land the punches it does with a sum total of less than fourteen words (yes, I counted) and a half-hour run time. While Graffiti didn’t shake me, it did certainly stir a helluva lot more than movies three times as long and three hundred times more expensive. The execution might not have always been there, but Graffiti nailed it in concept and in style.
Graffiti has been shortlisted for a 2017 Oscar and has won over 20 awards in Europe and North America. More information may be found at lluisquilez.com. All images retrieved via Graffiti press kit, wordpress, and tumblr, fair use.