Note: The original review reproduced here first appeared in Cult Critic Magazine, and was written by Moumita Deb.
Directed by Robert David Duncan/ Reviewed by Moumita Deb
Bearing testimony to some revolutionary cell phone cinematography, the sheer enigma of a movie magic happens in an instant in Room 403 Spinoza Hotel. It’s an alchemy of elements that, for whatever reason, creates something much more valuable when woven together in beautiful tapestry of surreal collage of images - the formula that has been sought for generations by filmmakers.
The film really stands out remarkably, both for its brevity and impact. Thought of just runtime 2 minutes 20 seconds, it delivers the same emotional punch, the same sense of wonder, the same movie magic as its much longer counterparts.
The film is a brilliant education in concision, implication, distillation, and, the raw power of moving images, settles down with devastating charm. It follows its own rules, which is why it’s nearly impossible to find a formula or designate a definite genre to Spinoza Hotel. Often, it can be understood only in retrospect, as the impact of the images with an equally imposing voice over, play themselves over and over again in our head.
Like a rolling stone, this film by Robert David Duncan creates, and is carried along,by its own momentum. It tumbles out in monologue and imagery, giving the piece the same relentless force as the ambiguous concept of liminal space,it talks about, through the space creature’s heart-rending soliloquy. By the end, the narrator is nearly touched by the emotional impact of his own words, and so are we. It may seem like the film is telling us about the anguish of ethereal creatures paying an imaginary visit to earth. In reality, it’s throwing us into the deep end. In just a few minutes, when you say you’re a silent sufferer,it conveys all the pain, panic, and glory of silent suffering itself.
It doesn’t take long to establish characters an audience cares about. Throughout the film The Wall with symbolic graffiti scribbled, stands with all its might and glory as a substantially personified character, giving meaning and poise to the narration. And not even for a second in the middle does it ever seem to drag. But these primal moments with the characters are essential for the final punch to land perfectly. When it does, we feel a huge emotional burden for this well-established character we have barely spent 140 seconds with. Without even realizing it, we bond intensely, and as their world sinks, so does ours.
The theme is so beautifully executed that it elevates itself into the realm of higher cinema. A journey to explore a liminal world-between-worlds where great and very unconventional spirits dwell. The film moves through time, space, and metaphor at the perfect pace (not plodding or breakneck), giving us a sense of history and significance of inner conflicts of cosmic creatures and their corporeal existence, their virulent grudge against space exploration and experimentation and finally a maddening obsession to transform the body to pure radio emissions - all becomes miraculously convincing through the lens of the filmmaker.
This hypnotic little film perfectly captures the quirky and colourful world of the haunting liminal existence that is neither here nor there. It is betwixt and between the moment that was and the one yet to be; a transition from who we were to who we are. Walk within the mists and explore between the illusion and reality.
The beauty of this film quite evidently lies in its simplicity without any intricate craftsmanship. It relies on composition, colours, and spot-on narration to create its charm. Somehow, even without any human characters, story, or dialogue, Room 403 Spinoza Hotel has managed to create a two-minutes sensation we can watch over and over again, and still find something new to appreciate.
While brilliantly executed, Room 403 Spinoza Hotel is truly a concept-driven piece. It’s the idea that sticks with you more than the film does. In that way, its two-minute run time works to its advantage. Just long enough to plant an idea in your mind, but not so long that it exhausts its possibilities. It makes you want more but refuses to indulge. And like all good films, it twists just enough at the end to provide a bit of closure to gratify the viewers ‘ever questioning mind.
The film vouches a deep pondering into the ontological relationship between perceptions of reality and the imagined from this threshold where fantasy meets reality, or where reality and fantasy may cross over and exchange places; and happily indulges in fictional characters who visit this space and later depart with a refreshed vision of the world , so to speak or as failures who remain there, doomed to a condition of perpetual uncertainty, anxiety or moral paralysis.
The film is essentially a testimony, executed with no cuts, no music, and just two graphics to indicate dialogue. A brilliant little machine of a film indeed!
Thank you so much Moumita Deb and Cult Critic The Film Magazine for this wonderful review, I really appreciate it!
Robert David Duncan, award-winning director, actor, writer and producer with a passionate interest in art, storytelling and the whole amazing journey called life. Founder of Fat Punk Productions and Festival Director of the Miniature Film Festival.