An astronaut is launched into orbit, his body tightly confined inside his suit and vessel, his mind enraptured by his new perspective on Earth. A boxer pumps himself up before a big match, repeating the mantra ‘you can’t change destiny’ before plunging into the controlled chaos of a fight. Two young men roll a joint, smoke it and lay down in a euphoric daze. Preparing for the birth of her child at hospital, a woman enters the painful throes of labour with her partner by her side. A man approaches a diving platform, peers over the edge to take in the height and plunges into the swimming pool.
These are the disparate narrative threads that the Dutch filmmaker Dylan Werkman weaves in his ambitious short film A View from Above, tethering these scenes together with craft and care to form a single, sprawling story. The rattling and beeping sounds of a spacecraft entering orbit bleed into a boxer in the heat of combat. Edits juxtapose the man’s walk up to the high dive with the astronaut’s journey to the space shuttle. Each strand shares a cinematic shot-on-film aesthetic and contemplative pace. While depicting these extremes of human experience, Werkman draws out elements that unite all of humanity – views of the Earth, the sounds of breathing and heartbeats, the experience of birth – evoking human life as an inevitably shared endeavour.
That Werkman, who created A View from Above while studying at the Netherlands Film Academy, isn’t overmatched by his stratospheric ambitions is an impressive feat. Meditations on the wondrous smallness of the Earth when viewed from space is well-tread filmic territory. But immersing the viewer in the shakiness of the space capsule and, ultimately, the parachute ride back down to Earth, he brings these scenes a true sense of intimacy and tension, and, upon entering orbit, breathtaking serenity. Through this, and from the many small glimpses into of terrestrial life below, emerges a bold and poetic exploration of peak human experience and ascendence.
Written by Adam D’Arpino
Director: Dylan Werkman
Producers: Marrit Greidanus, Pieter Kapteijns
Cinematographer: Jaap Mar Diemel