It’s hard to say whether Rowan McCarthy wanted to give us an existential drama or a dystopian sci-fi exercise. Nevertheless, no matter how each viewer understands his project, ‘Strange Commander‘ is a short film that aims to shock. And it succeeds, not necessarily by its dark atmosphere, but by the idea it approaches, since the director offers us here a gloomy perspective on that feeling of angst that imperceptibly overwhelms us. To a certain extent, this short film is intended to be a gloomy manifesto about the anxieties of the contemporary human, about the deceptive pursuit of the happiness that society imposes on us.


How can a human being be happy in an age when technology tends to become either a substitute with its own intelligence or a superior entity that demands us a certain behaviour? This question remains unanswered for the director, perhaps precisely because the answer would not be quite optimistic. Thus, his short film offers us not a conventional cinematic narrative, but rather a dive into a cybernetic nightmare at the end of which each viewer is encouraged to an exercise in self-reflection. On the other hand, the short film doesn’t lack a moralizing stake, and this far too obvious desire on the part of the director risks diminishing the overall effect of the project. But at the same time, the conflict between the real and the fictitious identity fueled by artificial intelligence is tackled in a suggestive enough way not to leave anyone indifferent.


Rowan McCarthy gives us a visceral experience, whose chromatic and acoustic stridencies, and whose mix between the realistic details and the macabre animation or the special effects have something of the emotional explosions of Edvard Munch’s paintings, the infernal grotesque of Hieronymus Bosch’s imagination and the dizzying angles of Alexander Sokurov’s films. All these more or less accidental affinities are, however, filtered through the daily “props” of the contemporary individual, in an attempt to capture a domestic space that suddenly becomes a hermetic prison. The result is impactful, and the coherence of this somewhat experimental project is certainly a plus that deserves our attention. Maybe because ‘Strange Commander’ illustrates a nightmare that many of us are already experiencing with our eyes wide open…