We are all familiar with films describing that almost spiritual communion with nature, in which people find in the fresh air of the mountain or in the ocean breeze a kind of simulacrum of paradise. However, certain directors prefer to analyse the dark, enraged side of the cosmic elements, revealing the fragility of the human beings activating their survival instincts. ‘At Dawn‘ is a short film that is part of that category, illustrating the agony of three youngsters faced with the mute violence of a ruthless sea that plays like an experienced predator with their hopes, after they become victims of their own ignorance. Despite its somewhat simple narrative premise, Julien Trauman’s project is not an existential metaphor that falls into the category of literary / cinematographic works such as ‘The Old Man and the Sea’; it is rather a current reinterpretation of the tragic episode we know as „the raft of Medusa”. Therefore, the great challenge that this short film involves is not aimed at exploring narrative and symbolic nuances that relieve subtle substrates of the human soul, but the brutal depiction of the emptiness and pain of the characters in which the survival instinct competes with feelings such as friendship or with convulsive episodes of the body attacked by the heat of the sun and the cold of the night, by hunger and thirst.
When several teenagers meet at a seaside party to say goodbye to a friend, three of them take advantage of an abandoned dinghy to set off on a night-time exploration of the seascape. But their recklessness fuelled by alcohol can be fatal.
The epic linearity of this short film becomes its main force, since the director takes the time to transform, with sharp precision, the overwhelming silence of nature into the profile of a ruthless God who juggles with human destinies. Consequently, Julien Trauman’s pictorial talent manages to create, from the mental images that the spectator is accustomed to assimilating with finding inner peace, true incarnations of monstrosity in which the blue of the sea combined with the pale light of the moon reach the limits of unbearable psychological aggression. ‘At Dawn’ is a shocking film that not only hypostasizes the crises of the human body and soul defying the imminence of an excruciating death, but it also forces the emotional and moral limits of the viewers confronted with the fragility of their own existence.
For its impeccably built psychological tension, for the talent with which the director “denatures” wide images of the marine space, revealing its latent aggression, but also for the suggestive force with which it captures both human resistance and fragility, ‘At Dawn’ was awarded with the Film of the Month distinction in the August 2019 edition of TMFF.