TIFF 2012: ‘Frost’ is a ten-minute sci-fi epic

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Frost

Directed by Jeremy Ball

Written by Jeremy Ball

Canada, 2012

“All things leave a mark on this world. Sometimes the marks are small… the difference between people and animals is that people choose the marks they leave behind. Animals just can’t seem to help themselves”.

In a film with sparse dialogue, this line is mentioned two times, each in a different context, and each with a different meaning. It isn’t redundant or ham-fisted storytelling; it’s purposely repetitive for poetic effect. It shows the universal nature of this aphorism, as well as its unfortunate legacy and longevity. It shows the wisdom of those who composed it, and the arrogance of those who choose to ignore it. But, moreover, it shows the surprising depth behind Frost, Jeremy Ball’s ten-minute sci-fi epic.

In the vast, boreal desert of some unknown tundra lives Naya (Emily Piggford), a young arctic hunter intent on demonstrating her prowess. Dismayed by her father’s lack of recognition (Oscar Hsu), Naya embarks on a foolhardy endeavor to prove her worth, defying the hunting perimeter set-up by her ancestors.

As she wanders into uncharted land, she comes across a strange discovery, the prospect of a new world. As Naya explores this new frontier, she is confronted with things hitherto unseen, things that further her comprehension of life but, at the same time, threatens it.

The most intriguing thing about Frost is its ability to seamlessly transition from the past, present and future. Our sense of time and space are provoked from the get go, making the film’s 10-minute running time feel like a collection of history, spotlighting an indistinguishable time period that holds no particular allusion to any era. We don’t see the film as an examination of what happened or what will happen, it just posits the idea that whatever happens in either will be exactly the same. The only shared attribute in both is us – humans.

For underneath the whiteout and remnants of Frost is a deeper meaning, one that’s easy to comprehend but still profound in importance. The quote mentioned above is about humanity as a whole, how we are responsible and conscious of our actions, how people can “choose the marks they leave behind”; the way animals can’t.

Yet, from a closer reading of Frost, we come to see this as sardonic. In this world, humans are more like animals. We aren’t responsible. We aren’t conscious of our actions. We do leave our mark with reckless indifference. Is it too speculative to suggest that these ‘marks’ are carbon in origin?

Director Jeremy Ball, who previously worked in production and visual effects on films like The Flowers of War, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is able to create a stark and desolate world. His message may come too easily for some, but chances are, thanks to Mr. Ball’s eye for the spectacular, you probably haven’t seen it rendered like this before.

– Justin Li

The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 6-16

For more information and tickets, please visit the official website

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