Penpusher (Gratte-papier) is a whimsical eight minute French short film written and directed by Guillaume Martinez set on a Paris Metro subway train. There is no spoken dialogue, but in the second half of the film there is a form of written communication.
It’s certainly a modest offering, but given the fact that you can’t exactly cover a lot of ground and say anything real deep about it in eight minutes, perhaps that’s excusable.
At first it’s just people coming and going on four subway seats–two and two facing each other. Since there’s no dialogue, and indeed the people are actively straining to avoid talking to each other, you’re able to focus on the other ways they communicate, or at least reveal things about themselves to each other, through body language, facial expressions, etc.
Especially that’s a matter of eye movement, for instance as guys check out a girl, trying not to get caught.
Except then it gets slightly more complicated, because you not only have to avoid getting caught by the girl, but by the guy sitting next to her, who, for all you know, may be with her.
That kind of tickled me, watching the characters trying to look as indifferent as possible while carefully assessing the dynamics of the situation as best they can. (“Oops did he see me? Is he with her?” “So he’s checking out this girl. He probably thinks I’m with her. I’ve been trying to check her out myself, but actually he can see her better sitting across from her than I can. I’ll shoot him a quick look to make him squirm.” “Uh oh, he’s looking at me like that’s his girlfriend I was checking out. I’ll play it cool like I’m not even aware of him, like I haven’t been looking at either of them.”)
Then the guy and the girl sitting next to each other start flirting in a unique way. Each has a book they are studying, so the guy, knowing she’s watching, underlines words one by one in his book to form a sentence. She catches on and does likewise, and they go back and forth.
Mostly it’s kind of obscure, semi-poetic expression, so I only have a vague idea what they are trying to express to each other, but they seem to know quite well, and they make a nice little connection. Obviously it’s limited–like trying to communicate with Scrabble tiles or something–but maybe that’s part of the charm for them.
Like I say, there’s not much to it, but it’s kind of cute. Worth the eight minute investment anyway.