In an information age where social networking has become a communicative cornerstone, e-Social makes an almost chilling journey into mortality, and the protagonist’s inner struggle. Whether Peter’s widow, Anna, should cling to the memory of her deceased husband or finally find closure and release him from a replicated existence is the moral and emotional cornerstone of this film. Through the human simplicity of the plot and its exposition through acting, score, setting, and visual effects, e-Social is an effective short film which explores a relevant theme on the divide between fantasy and reality. It is not without minor pacing concerns and delivery of dialogue at certain points, but the film succeeds in being a thought-provoking and stirring watch.
E-Social, directed by Natalia Lampropoulou and penned by Sotiris Petridis, follows the life of Anna Papa (Matina Koulourioti) and the death of her late husband Peter Kirizis (Xristos Papadimitriou). The film is set three to four generations after the birth of social networking and it has become common practice for relatives of the deceased to keep their profiles alive, and simulate their existence through holographic recreations of the deceased. Though reluctant to carry out the process, Anna has Peter recreated perfectly, and at first “Peter”, the hologram, seems an outstanding facsimile for Anna’s husband. The limitations of his programming soon become clear, however; “Peter” cannot make physical contact with Anna, cannot interact with his environment, and cannot answer questions that pertain to Peter’s death or mortality. The emotional turmoil reaches its apex as the tension Anna feels explodes over the shattering of a glass, and “Peter” is incapable of responding or reacting to the conflict. Anna finally rejects the fantasy of her living husband in favor of the harsh reality of his death, casts away her holographic projector, and deletes Peter’s social networking profile.
The film’s ability to carry its message is deeply rooted in human emotion, and in simple, day-to-day existence as a device to tell a story. Simplicity is key, for e-Social. Less is more with this film, with regard to setting, visual effects, score, and the plot itself. The score of the film, for example, is typically simple but effective in conveying Anna’s emotions. Visual effects don’t abound in this film but when we see them they are very effective in illustrating a futuristic Earth. From hologram shimmers to the glass, transparent screens and the displays upon them, the film’s effects are virtually seamless and integrated brilliantly into the settings and the story. The quiet montage of images on the wall as Anna scrolls through old pictures effectively establish Anna’s grief and longing without dialogue, without anything more than the images and her gaze. The settings themselves are also not elaborate, but sterile-looking enough and fitting with the tone of the film sufficiently to keep that seamless, unbroken future appearance, even in environments like Anna and Peter’s home. Peter’s death is never seen on screen, but the silent montage of social networking statuses and updates very effectively outline his death, as does the finality of his account being deleted by Anna at the film’s conclusion. Simplicity is a strong point.
Simplicity in e-Social is effective for the most part but does produce some pacing issues, points where the flow of the plot seems dragged out by action not relevant to the plot of development of the tension between Anna and Peter. While Papadimitriou’s performance as Peter was stellar by and large, there were also moments where “Peter” as a character was unclear, seeming disjointed, and while perhaps this was intentional and part of the development of this character and the tension with Anna, there were some moments in which the delivery seemed awkward.
The acting in e-Social is outstanding, and Matina Koulourioti delivers a stirring and emotional performance as Anna Papa. Xristos Papadimitriou portrayal of Peter is outstanding, as are the performances of actors playing secondary characters in the film. The story itself is a clever take on the modern social networking phenomenon, and the message delivered feels relevant. The conflicts in this film are thought-provoking and brilliantly executed; Anna’s fantasies at intimacy with a hologram that cannot make contact with her, the breaking of the glass, and Peter’s inability to interact with his environment or respond to simple queries drive home Anna’s inner struggle and the conflict in the film between fantasy and reality, between the living and the replicated. The casting off of the projector into the water, the visual surrender of the synthetic back to nature, and the finality of the social networking account being closed bring a closure to the film that leaves the viewer satisfied with the resolution of the plot and Anna’s struggle. The cinematography of the film’s futuristic-looking environments is also outstanding, and in no way detracts from the audience experience.
E-Social executes a simple story with few characters in a brilliant fashion. From the seamless visual effects to the simple, mournful score and to the quiet expositions of grief, it captures the humanity of loss and grieving in a world where social networking clings on and tries to keep memories of the deceased alive. There are some disjointed moments with pacing and brief points of confusion with some of the acting, but the majority of performances in E-Social are very effective, and Anna’s emotions are brought to life brilliantly by Koulourioti.
Four stars out of five.