Anyone who has seen Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy” knows that the filmmaker does not always gravitate toward linear storytelling closed off to interpretation and analysis. “Prisoners” is more clear-cut, but Villeneuve does a great job maintaining speculation and intrigue throughout the thriller. Even the incredible “Incendies,” which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film four years ago, is a rollercoaster ride with unpredictable reveals and reversals. Still, none of these films come quite as close to mind-bendingly perplexing as his 2008 short, “Next Floor.”
“Next Floor”—a virtually dialogue free nine-minutes—takes place entirely around a dining table. A hodgepodge of gluttonous individuals—mostly men, but with a few women—all in dusty clothing, eagerly and rapidly cram as much food into their mouths as possible. The spread is lavish (and sorry, vegetarians, you’ll most likely find it quite repulsing). So many different kinds of meat. Animal after animal, corpse after corpse. The diners shovel it in, barely allowing time to chew or swallow, only periodically making eye contact with one another. After each bite they take, a small army of waiters delivers another heaping tray to the table. And before long, the table, nearly buckling under the weight of the food, and the patrons gorging themselves around it, crashes through the floor, plummeting to the story below. The only words spoken accompany these drops, when the maître d’ orders his staff to the “next floor.”
So what can the short possibly mean? An obvious theory—though not at all a weak on for its apparentness—is that the eaters are in Hell, suffering their fate for their gluttonous lives. Forced to feed themselves at fast forward velocities, they gorge and gorge until they sink ever deeper into Hell. Look for the crying woman when you watch. Is she a new soul, despairing of her new circumstances, regretful of the choices she made in life, which have landed her here? She tries to fight her fate, but it’s inevitable, a battle she will never win.
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Or is “Next Floor” a statement on the voraciousness with which we—as a species—are consuming this planet’s resources and exterminating (read: devouring) its other species? Look at the animals served at the table. Beyond traditional dishes such as sausages and fowl and beef, there are antelope and small mammals and endangered creatures like rhinoceros. And the presentations often come barbarically, with decapitated animal heads and organs on display in ways that would be stomach turning at any table but this one.
Check out the short below, and then leave your own interpretation in the comments. And for more Villeneuve, be sure to track his self-professed best film to date, “Sicario,” which debuted at Cannes last week (our review) and opens Stateside September 18th. [via Little White Lies]