Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Ghost In The Machine (2012)

Ghost In The Machine is an extremely cute and quirky short movie that is frankly impossible not to love.

Directed by Oliver Krimpas (who co-wrote the script with Christopher Coppice) Ghost in the Machine feels rather like something Roald Dahl might have written; a fairy tale for adults if you will, in which a modern day badly done to Cinderella gets to experience the romance and independence she has longed for all her life.  This character is Noreen played by the brilliant Jessica Gunning, star of Pride, White Heat and What Remains to name but a few. 

Noreen is an overweight teenage farm girl who lives in the shadow of her domineering, cruel and unsympathetic father who treats her little more than a slave, expecting her to tend to the land for nothing, thus making a saving on hired labour. To escape her harsh and lonely existence, Noreen likes to daydream that she is a beautifully dressed, much sought after lady in the rolling fields of America; captured in the honeyed glow she rebuffs the advances of a lovestruck, handsome cowboy, instructing him to kiss her boot to show his affection for her. But it isn't long before she's falling back to earth with a bump, facing the blunt insulting comments and criticisms from her father and gaining little comfort from her cold, meek mother either.

Then, one day whilst out in the fields she finds a chance at love where she least expects it - from an abandoned talking tractor!

When the broken down, long-forgotten 1953 Massey Harris tractor tells her, with a Texan drawl, that she’s pretty, Noreen's first reaction is to think that she is crazy. But she's so starved of love and affection that she has to go back to it, her curiosity piqued despite, having fished around for clues regarding it, her father informs her that the tractor once killed one of his labourers. Pretty soon she's visiting it secretly everyday and an unlikely relationship with the smitten and romantic tractor develops into something that ultimately saves Noreen from drudgery forever.

Oliver Krimpas' lightly black comic fantasy is really beautiful, with some really effective contrasts between the warmth of Noreen's daydream and the scenes with the tractor and the bitter slate grey coldness of her reality. Rural Lincolnshire is wonderfully captured but there's a nod to America, home of the tractor too. The story is really well constructed and its subject matter pretty timeless, making it perfect for the short film medium. Admittedly the central conceit of a talking tractor who appreciates the fuller figure may be too quirky and whimsical to appeal to everyone, but the assured and confident playing of the cast, especially Jessica Gunning (along with the vocal work of Nathan Osgood as the tractor) means the idea flies and is never embarrassing or played for unintentional laughs. There's one lovely, wickedly funny scene in which the tractor convinces Noreen to take off her dowdy dungarees and straddle his seat; shot from a POV inside the grill, we see Gunning slowly strip making 'eye contact' throughout, to soundtrack of Al Green's Love and Happiness, and ends with her shivering upon his seat remarking how cold it is, to which he wryly replies "Warming up though" - it's just so sweet and so funny and pretty much encapsulates the film for me and its unabashed, unafraid look at the universal appeal of love, for all; be it thin, fat, tall, short or even antiquated tractor! Because, if you look beyond the fantastical elements, what you are actually witness to is simply a tale about falling in love and finding your knight in shining armour - and which of us can't identify with that?

You can view the trailer here

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