There's so much to do at Comic-Con that some real goodies get lost in the flood. Like small press creators, independent films don't get the visibility they deserve. I almost missed out on Project Arbiter. If it hadn't been for staff handing out promotional material in the main lobby next to a dude wearing a cool costume, I wouldn't have bothered wandering over to the independent film theaters way over in the ballrooms at the end of the Marriott hotel.
So the story goes that top secret technology has been developed during World War II that allows the user to project invisibility. A special services team infiltrates German-held territory with one of its soldiers wearing an invisibility suit. His purpose is to get to a location where secret experiments are being conducted by the Germans. What he discovers there are horrific tests being performed on humans. He also learns that his own life is threatened by the very technology he is wearing.
I love retro-futurism. Like Hellboy and a slew of Steampunk related movies, merging current day (or future) technology with the resources available in times past creates fascinating alternative-reality story lines. These types of films don't have many limitations so long as the baseline historical context (in this case WWII) remains intact. Sure, it requires a deeper suspension of disbelief, but if one achieves that, a good story of this kind can be just as interesting as movies projecting from current day technology into the opposite direction (into the future). You know, like Blade Runner or Star Trek in their time.
I'm assuming the budget for the film was pretty thin, so the special effects impressed me. The only two things I found distracting were the wide shots that took in the countryside and buildings, and the eye holes in the mask. The wide shots came off cheap and empty by comparison to the close-in shots. It's probably because a very limited number of actors were used and the budget didn't allow for background buildings and elements that would have convinced a viewer that they were seeing 1940s Poland. So, I guess that's not a complaint as much as an observation. As for the mask, maybe there was a reason for the small openings, but I have to assume that the soldier could see very little out the tiny peep holes. I think it would have looked better to have some sort of sealed goggles in the mask for peripheral vision.
I was intrigued by the mysteries that the movie partially exposes. The short film promises depth to the storytelling that would be handled in a longer movie. I'm not familiar with the actors but they were convincing in general although a fighting sequence in a field was a bit stilted. From what I heard during the Q&A, the film was shot with a Red One camera. The coloring of the film was fantastic ... a intentional somewhat grainy black and white but with slightly muted coloration. In a lot of ways, the cinematography reminded me of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
I hope this gets picked up and converted into a feature. I'd love to see the whole story.
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