The Drone Master [Sébastien Duhem, France, 2018]
The year is 3049, humankind is finished, virtually bereft of existence, with the last man alive placing his own survival in the hands and will of a machine, relying on it to share and record his final days.
The Drone Master's narrative is open and expansive, with nods and references peppered throughout for sci-fi fans. For instance, the drone’s recorded name is a direct reference to Alien [Ridley Scott, US, 1979] and, from the outset, there is a feeling and shape similar to cult favourite, Hardware [Richard Stanley, UK, 1990], albeit with less malevolent intent, but they certainly share a similar aesthetic and steam-punk inspiration.
Early on in the film, our titular drone master (Guillaume Senicourt) is preparing a shrine, aware of his and the drone’s fate. Here, we are presented with thematic elements that broach the subject of creation and mortality, with the protagonists final actions carried with an air of inevitability and stoic acceptance.
The shrine is intended as a representation of humankind, a symbol of what once lived and thrived as a species. It is a final contribution, one that the drone master knows full well won't be everlasting, but he records it all with the view to somehow share a life lived, along with the planet’s final days, showing it in all of its glory and lost beauty, lending the narrative pathos and emotional weight.
We are invited into this world through the eyes of the drone; we see and feel what it does, the connection between man and technology is convincingly conveyed, with the wonderful cinematography resembling first-hand drone footage and giving life to the machine as well as the subjects it captures.
The use of drones in film is becoming more and more common, broadening the possibility to create a feeling of space, humanity and observing our place within this world, and making it more accessible and real for the audience at large. Sébastien Duhem’s vision is one of narrative progression utilising the camera as part of story itself, not merely on objective, non-manipulative presence, but an active character in its own right.
The film is shot in black and white and the film benefits greatly from this, the lighting and natural presentation providing us with a depth of understanding and integration with the subject. Given the narrative scale, this is a massive credit to the production team as a whole, and both the cast and crew should be applauded for such collaborative innovation.
The Drone Master is an impressive piece of technical filmmaking with a narrative that, although told and seen elsewhere in other forms, brings a visual update to the science-fiction genre, and is a creative wonder with a message that holds up in any age, post-apocalyptic or not.
'The Drone Master' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2018.