One of the things I love about movies is the breadth of the art form; encompassing everything from mega-budget summer blockbusters to tiny independent productions and how across that range you can find extraordinary works at every level.
“Third Contact” is extraordinary. Made for a microscopic budget of only £4,000, writer/ producer/ director Simon Horrocks’ debut feature is exercise in economy, yet manages to deliver a cerebral science fiction film that credits its audience with intelligence and imagination
Psychotherapist David Wright (Tim Scott-Walker), struggling with his own emotional state, is finding it difficult to focus on the needs of his patients and his waning practice. One of his patients has committed suicide and another is talking excitedly of quantum suicide, a thought experiment which suggests immortality may be possible. Contacted by the sister of the patient who committed suicide, David learns of the strange items left behind, including a list of four dates with descriptions of the memories of those times. When another of David’s patients commits suicide leaving the same strange list behind, David begins an obsessive investigation, determined to prevent any more deaths.
Stark and bleakly minimalist, Horrocks’s use of black and white gives the film a poetic and contemplative air, the brief flashes of colour jarring the eye. As you’d expect from a micro-budget piece, some of acting is a little variable but for the most part the cast acquit themselves well, especially leading man Tim Scott-Walker who delivers an intensely personal and powerful performance, really selling the haunted, isolated nature of David’s existence.
A serious and unapologetically opaque film, the science fiction elements of the story are subtle and creepily effective, preferring to provoke thought and reflection rather than provide easy answers and technobabble exposition. Reminiscent of “Sapphire And Steel”, there’s a palpable sense of a wider, more fantastical cosmology hiding behind the bland world we perceive, waiting just at the edge of the vision and accessible if only you knew how.
The film, which can be rented or bought here, is an incredible achievement on such a small budget and makes Simon Horrocks someone to watch very closely in future. He’s already working on his next project, the web series “Kosmos”, so you might want to check that out too.