Review – Alterify by Julien Surdeau

French filmmaker Julien Surdeau unveils sci-fi short film “Alterify” made entirely from stock footage. With a memory alteration plot that harkens to the twisty classics of the genre, in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alterify brings something fresh to the genre that will not only tickle your brain but make you stare at the screen in disbelief by the end.

“The starting point was, What if I told a story taking place around the world while I’m stuck at home?“

Julien Surdeau

“The starting point was, What if I told a story taking place around the world while I’m stuck at home?“ Julien Surdeau said about the film. “It’s been years since I wanted to shoot a proper short film. The pandemic stomped out my fire, especially since most of my ideas were taking place in the UK or the US. I realized that if I wanted to make it happen anyway, I had to do it by myself, at home.”

Julien said the frustration became the origin of the plot, with the narrative revolving around the topic of “remembering last year as the best time of my life.”

“I worked on a script that would condense a modern sci-fi plot (with a twist), a love story, some of my movie influence, and my state of mind regarding the pandemic – all rolled into in a three-minute short film”, Julien said.

The plot is simple. An individual arrives at a facility to change his memories to remember a girl that he met while on a trip to Tokyo. We don’t actually see the protagonist or any of the specialists in the facility. We only hear their voices as the visuals support the plot using stock footage. While this may feel unconventional, it works. We are hooked to the story when the advertisement for the technology comes up on screen, we begin to invest in the protagonist as he begins to dream about the girl he spent a summer with and we are totally floored by the end when the procedure starts to go awry and desperate measures are taken to save the protagonist.

Bursting at its seams with creativity, Alterify gets full marks for both its concept and its technical prowess.

Bursting at its seams with creativity, Alterify gets full marks for both its concept and its technical prowess. The visuals are crisp and the audio fulfills the role of character development well, introducing a slew of characters including the protagonist and group of specialists who are performing the procedure on the protagonist. The film’s real power involves helping us imagine the characters that we never see on screen but only hear. The tug of war between the specialists as the procedure starts to go sideways and the desperate pleas of the protagonist to make sense of what is going on add to the palpable tension on screen.

The pacing and editing is another thing that works well. Since we do not see any faces to discern emotion, it is up to both the pacing and editing to convey the emotion as well as drama. The creative heads behind the project use this aspect well in ensuring the audience ends up feeling what the characters are going through. 

Alertify is the kind of film that people seldom attempt and even fewer succeed in making. Completely original, the film is a highly unique concept that is perfect in its execution. The film cements science fiction as the genre with the most leeway for creativity and immortalizes its makers as powerful auteurs who will definitely go on to do great things in the industry.

Director Biography – Julien Surdeau

Also known as Thirsty Bstrd, Julien Surdeau is a multidisciplinary artist who currently lives and works in Paris, his creative work explores a critical view of social and cultural issues, drawing inspiration from contemporary art and pop culture.

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