Yourself [Lukas Pohl, Germany/South Africa, 2018]
Yourself is a short commercial film which highlights a uniquely twenty-first century issue, calling its viewers back to nature and drawing us away from the hustle and bustle of city life, imploring us to ‘wake up, [and] let go of the system.’
The cool-toned colour palette of blues and subdued sandy tones immerses the viewer into the world of the surf from the offset, where slowed down images of unfurling waves and sun-bleached hair blowing in the wind are gradually introduced and we follow three friends out of the city and into the ocean. The transition from two juxtaposing environments is handled gracefully by Lukas Pohl, as the progression of the friends’ journey is rhythmically guided by a carefully crafted soundtrack so that these two elements of the film work together in musical harmony, which is reminiscent of the fluxing motion of the ocean itself.
The narrative voice accompanying the natural visuals is contradictorily associated with action-fuelled Hollywood blockbuster trailers that are inherently imbedded within a commercial and capitalistic sector of film. Thus, whilst this certainly adds to the film’s emphasis on the epic power of nature to transform and heal oneself from the artificiality of ‘megacities and machines,’ it does so from a place that does not align with the film’s message, that nature allows us to escape from the numbing socio-political infrastructures of modern society and from ‘the chaos we created.’
This impersonal voice furthermore distracts from the candid and personalised perspective of the camera view—which successfully works to place the viewer inside the car with the three friends on their journey to the beach—by overlaying this with a phonetic excerpt far removed from the relaxed, paradisiacal beaches of South Africa. Here, the stunning and atmospheric cinematography and excellent use of colour throughout is undermined by the unavoidably cheesy choice of narration, where the final assertion that returning to nature allows one to “become born again” comes across as insincere and overly dramatic.
Unfortunately, here Pohl sacrifices a final opportunity of poignant deliverance of the beautiful (and undoubtedly necessary) message that the film attempts to drive forth, lacking narratological conviction in the moment when it matters most. But, aside from this, Pohl adds new meaning to the typical teen road trip, creating a dynamic relationship between nature and the people who inhabit it.
In a short space of time, Yourself manages to draw a cinematic eye toward the restorative power of nature amidst a chaotic modern world through the cohesive use of colour. Through this aesthetic alone, whilst watching this short, you might just find yourself waking up with a newly coloured outlook on modern life.
‘Yourself’ was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2018.