Stylistically incredible and inspiring in its own right, Cycle deservedly won the 'Best Film' award at this year's University of Southampton Student Film Festival.
It seems Iman Bahmanabadi and Leo Barton have succeeded in being to the University of Southampton’s Student Film Festival as Mad Max: Fury Road was to the Oscars this year, with Barton taking home three of the eight awards on offer and Bahmanabadi taking two. The pair entered eight films into the festival on behalf of their production company ‘Thinc.’, with two being selected for screening: Opening Doors and Cycle. It was the latter which proved to be overly successful with both audience and the judge panel.
Cycle follows an unnamed student, played by Josh Vaatstra, as he follows a somewhat stilted daily routine; stale and he knows it, including his longing for an unnamed girl, played by Flora Whitmarsh. As he literally cycles through his day-to-day life, it is no thunderous outbreaks of anger, or passionate outcries of passion which eventually break the monotony of his ‘cycle’, but instead it is something more subtle, more relatable; somehow something better.
Most impressive about the film is something which remains, for the majority, utterly consistent in the duo’s film ventures. It is remarkable how such a young pair have such an eye for engaging their audience through use of cinematography and editing. Through a stellar understanding of exactly their intentions, they internalise their audience inside the film, creating almost another character in the world of the film. From the very beginning, we are drawn in not from our own desires but their’s. We feel what the characters feel, and we too feel as if in a cycle, doing the same things as him, seeing the same things as him, feeling it all too; both in the film, and then outside in our own lives.
Directors Iman Bahmanabadi and Leo Barton’s greatest strength is how little they pander towards the audience. Yes, we are led to believe we are internalised to the film throughout its eight minutes, but it reminds us consistently how very simplistic this idea, and actions of the unnamed boy are. And that is where Vaatstra’s performance gleams. The subtlety of his performance is commendable, perhaps somewhat expected for a short film, yet there’s a small shimmer of emotive drive clear from the very start of his portrayal. The ups and downs of his life aren’t exaggerated as could easily be done to create impact, but instead the opposite happens. It’s the eyes, a twitch of the mouth, a darting glance, which tells us everything and shows us all we need to.
When the ‘Thinc’ pair were announced as winners of not only the ‘Audience Award’ but the ‘Best Film’ award, the entire room erupted in applause and cheers I could liken to roaring gasps. The whole room, more or less, were behind them, and rightly so. Whilst Cycle on its own might not prove to be as influential to a wider crowd as it was to that room, there is no doubt that the duo will soon be moving on to bigger, better and deservedly fantastic ventures.