On the surface, writer/director Christopher Jason Bell’s short film, left, appears to be a rudimentary walkthrough of a very basic premise – a young woman roaming an airport; and to a certain extent, this is true. It is, in its entirety, nothing more than a young woman wandering through the confines of an airport while attempting to arrange a place for herself to stay. However, it is within this elementary narrative framework that Bell experiments with the role of the camera as well as a minimum allowance in terms of narrative.
Typically the camera has one purpose within a film; whether it be as a conduit/portal to achieve immersion or as a specific point-of-view or, simply, as a documenting device. In most instances, the camera occupies one of these modes with occasional mixings of others. In the case of left, Bell appears to be utilizing the camera in two distinct and, in essence, contradictory ways simultaneously. Somehow both are able to achieve their desired aims concurrently without negating the other in the process.
At first, the camera is nothing more than a portal, merely projecting this woman’s predicament to the audience; connecting the audience to her current plight, which is being stranded inside an airport without any confirmed destination. No money for a ticket and no friend or family member to stay with for the time being. However, over time its role transforms subtly into something more villainous as the portal to her plight, at once, becomes an embodiment of her plight. She is fleeing someone and something (the particulars of which remain unknown) and the camera pursues; the camera, in a sense, becomes an extension of that pursuer.
Granted, the way in which Bell shoots his wandering protagonist could be chalked up to being the only viable option at hand – to follow behind with the camera as Brittany Connors walks her route because the camera operator needs to be able to see where they are going. Although the following camera does feel intentional. The way in which it coolly tracks her with intent throughout without giving her much space, the way in which it saddles up in stifling proximity in her respites; for every passing minute wherein she is unable to secure herself a safe exit he remains close, possible contact between the two grows ever more as a possibility, an unfortunate inevitability.
All of this plays out in real-time, seemingly in a single take. Bell lets the weight of her situation inhabit every passing second within the film’s 40-minute runtime with sparse dialogue peppered across the din of airport activity. She is alone in this and Bell’s refusal to cut away from her connects the viewer to her uncertainty and the exhaustion and weariness she experiences through the austerity of the narrative actions. This spartan approach also instills a certain sense of seriousness and sobriety as Bell’s continued resistance towards sensationalizing any aspect of the film helps maintain the creation of a stark reality.