The great technological innovators of the late 20th century can all be interlinked with one common trait. They were all weirdos; introverted souls who relentlessly tested and toiled their inventions in the most unexpected of places. Amazon and Apple were created in garages in their heyday, so anything can virtually sprout from anywhere. Either a college dorm, a barnyard, or in the case of Ryan Braund’s Absolute Denial, an isolated warehouse in the middle of nowhere. Tackling the internal philosophical and ethical confinements of artificial intelligence —told through the power of internal monologue— Braund’s latest animated project is a scattered albeit proficient work of science fiction homage.
As far as hard science fiction goes, Braund’s attention to specific dialogue and vernacular found within the computer-science field provides a sense of realism and confidence within the film’s occasional scene of exposition. At a swift runtime of only 71 minutes, Absolute Denial explores the daily dynamics between technology and traditional human intelligence. Quite literally drawn to life in its rotoscoped form, Braund’s clever integration of visuals help enforce and provide clever subtext against the film’s ‘glitch in the matrix’ psychological character study. As the film’s lead ‘David’ is continuously belittled by the feebleness and susceptibility of the human mind, Braund extrapolates engaging red-herrings and other deceitful misdirections to great dramatic effect.
However, some of its screenwriting often finds itself in bizarre, poorly-executed situations; including but not limited to hammered one-on-one conversations and the overuse of David’s internal narration. With strong visuals already backing its defined narrative base, the constant pandering towards over-writing disrupts Absolute Denial’s existential wit. Scenes involving mute movement accompanied by stunning surrealist imagery in the film’s third act stand out in contrast with the rest of the film. The reason per-say? Perhaps it might be due to Braund’s overuse of the various featured shot-reverse-shot conversations; that create a static visual palette. As a whole, the film’s visual language lacks a certain amount of urgency and weight; where the end result is a science fiction fable with just enough willpower to carry its formidable drama.
Admittedly, for a first time debut, Absolute Denial provides an inviting new voice into the independent animation sphere. Flawed? Most definitely, yet sometimes the most memorable innovations can have its frequent ups and downs. As for Braund and his career in the future, there is a bewitching voice at the core of his film; a promising young creator bound to produce more fascinating animated works in the near future. All that’s left is time, funding, and a bit more mutual support to continue advocating for new intriguing directors in our current oversaturated market of juvenile adult-oriented animated projects.
Absolute Denial premiered at this year’s Annecy Festival edition, as part of the official Contrechamp Competition. The film is currently seeking international distribution.