Short Film: The Drowning Room
In today’s economic climate, when owners find their houses are “underwater,” it’s not quite as literally as in the above short film. Directed by Reynold Reynolds and Patrick Jolley, The Drowning Room is one of the most astonishing short films ever seen by the Underground Film Journal, having first experienced it way back at the 2000 New York Underground Film Festival. So, we’re thrilled that Reynolds has finally put it online.
The Drowning Room is still pretty incredible to watch after being transferred to digital and seen on the small screen, i.e. a computer monitor. However, it doesn’t quite compare to the claustrophobic intensity of experiencing it while trapped in a movie theater and on the big screen.
Most underwater scenes in movies are reserved for action sequences and, while Reynolds and Jolley do stage a fist fight, The Drowning Room is most intense during its most mundane actions. The film opens with an impossibly long sequence in which the main characters do nothing except sit at a table and enjoy a meal of raw fish and pasta. There’s no explanation for the family’s predicament. Being underwater is the natural order of their existence. However, as the sequence drags on it becomes more and more suffocating for the viewer especially since at some point we should be expecting at least one of the characters to start gasping for air, yet none ever do.
The next sequence features a man becoming sexually frustrated with his wife and soon the mundane family drama begins to degenerate. The man tears up the house looking for something and then becomes involved in fisticuffs with another man. His problems never seem to stem from having to live underwater — even though the house has not been adapted for underwater living. Instead, there is the typical suburban conflict one could find in any cinematic melodrama and we begin to realize that these characters are suffocating in their emotional states, if not in their physical ones.
Reynolds and Jolley have also made a sequel of sorts to The Drowning Room called Burn, while Reynolds solo work frequently tackles the subject of the deteriorating lives in confined spaces, such as in Six Apartments, which was featured on the Underground Film Journal last year.