These words are probably unfurling inside one of many open tabs on your computer screen. Perhaps one tab is for work, one is for chatting, and another is for Twitter. You probably even have some others open for no particular reason. This is the way we receive information and the way we communicate now: constantly, simultaneously, compulsively, endlessly, and more and more often, solitarily. This strange new mode of living--and its indelible effect on our humanity--is perfectly captured in a new short film that debuted this week at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The 17-minute, mildly NSFW Noah is unlike anything you've seen before in a movie--only because it is exactly like what many of us see on our computers all the time. Created by Canadian film students Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg, the film begins when our high school senior protagonist types in the password that opens up his laptop, and the narrative takes place entirely on his computer screen.
From the desktop photo of a young couple posing for the camera, we learn that Noah has a girlfriend. Their relationship serves as the centerpiece of this cautionary tale about digital culture. Through Noah's perspective, we see the way the couple communicates, either in Facebook chat or Skype, with him flitting through any number of other online activities at the same time, while approximating being present for their conversation. Things really get interesting, however, when our protagonist hacks into his girlfriend's Facebook account. The rest of the film deals with the fallout from this act.
Lending the project authenticity is the filmmakers' attention to detail. From the screen names (a friend calls himself "Kanye East") to the casual cat photo-related deceit in the couple's relationship, it all seems remarkably lived-in and now. Noah assumes the viewer is familiar with certain modernities like the function on Facebook that shows precisely when a sent message has been seen, and uses these to rewarding dramatic effect. Also commendable: either Woodman or Cederberg took the time to curate a "Cuddle Jams" playlist, which gradually slides from Donna Lewis to Metallica.
Lest you think that watching some couple Skype sounds boring, though, this thing moves at the speed of an ADD-afflicted hummingbird, zooming in on key pieces of information as Noah learns them, before zipping off to follow what he does with the new intel. It doesn't matter how far removed in age you are from the characters, if you are digitally savvy enough to be reading this article, Noah will hit uncomfortably close to home.