I recall Roger Ebert’s review of Cloud Atlas in which he stated that, even after more than one viewing, he still had no idea what it was about but that was the very thing he admired about it; he liked being bewildered by it. That is pretty much how I feel about Zack Snyder’s 4-minute short film Snow Steam Iron, I’ve watched it several times now and I still couldn’t tell you what it’s about or what it all means but that is exactly why I kind of love it.
So how does that work then? Well, I’m of a small group of film fans who really enjoy Terrence Malick’s later works and Snow Steam Iron felt very much like that, very dream-like and unrestrained but without the romantic viewpoint Malick has of the world and instead that of Snyder’s. What I’m trying to say is this short film is indeed weird and sticks a middle finger up at the film school rule book but that doesn’t mean it is without a soul, coherence or the ability to get you to think.
Visually it is everything you could want from a Snyder film, muted colours and a dark gothic noir style that I’m personally partial to but what’s really amazing is that he shot the whole thing on an IPhone; over a weekend with friends and family. I suppose it should also make one fearful for the man’s sanity as one could assume this is his way of dealing with the loss of his daughter, like that scene in Amadeus when the great figure emerges onto the stage that clearly represents Mozart’s recently deceased father; I say fearful because Snow Steam Iron is one dark little piece.
There are some shots in here that I’m downright jealous of, and all on an IPhone, that’s certainly something I’m not going to get over. It’s like spending 4 minutes inside his head, there is fetishized violence, slow motion, every shot could be a painting to be hung on the wall, even a good bit of sexual sadism; and I can’t help but admire it when a filmmaker couldn’t care less what other people think and splatters literally whatever they want on the screen precisely because they just want to do it.
I don’t usually go out of my way for short films, as great as they can be, I suppose in the last few years I’ve had a complete guts full of them at university, but I’m a huge fan of Snyder, every single film he’s made is underappreciated and misunderstood beyond belief, especially Sucker Punch, and that’s if they’re not bogged by the classic “er, no, that character wouldn’t do that” argument, so I can’t help but give this the benefit of the doubt and I loved it. It’s dark, spooky, creepy, intriguing, well shot, admirable and gorgeous, it’s great he has something that perfectly showcases pure talent to shut people up and, even though I have no idea what the story is, it’s definitely worth a look.