The Door, a short film by Irish director Juanita Wilson, is one of the best short films I have seen all year. In fact, it may be one of the best I have seen ever. With its numerous awards and nomination for Best Live Action Short Film at the 82nd Academy Awards (2009), I doubt that I’m alone with this opinion, either.
Set in Ukraine, in days following the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, this film is a powerful tale of life, death, grief and perspective. It follows one man, Nikolai, reflecting on the tragedies that lead him to commit what at first seems an absurd act: the stealing of a door. It is this act of theft that opens the film, and the haunting, yet immensely compelling scenes that carry us to the end are a tangle of thoughts, trying to make sense of it.
The film itself moves around in time, slowly revealing to us the terrible tragedy of the Chernobyl disaster through one man’s perspective. Then, as this film edges ever nearer to the end, this question of absurdity gets completely lost. In its place, the universally understood act of trying to make sense of a tragic situation.
The disaster has meant the Nikolai and his family have had to move away from their town, and under soviet rule it is illegal to take any of their belongings with them. Marched out of their homes, it is the one thing that they really want to leave behind, which they just cannot; the tragedy of Chernobyl. Following them to their new home, living in extremely poor circumstances in with other evacuees, the tragedy continues to decimate their lives even further.
For Nikolai, his harrowing loss leaves him with only one purpose, searching for sense with symbolic ritual. The Door is an object so ordinary and common, yet having the important tasks of seeing you safely from one place to another, while all the time keeping you safe from what lies beyond… or behind. It is this door that is Nikolai’s symbol, offering the respect and human dignity where a situation allows little else to be had.
It is a tough and thought provoking watch, yet this film is not only great in plot – it is also enriched with its brilliantly staged scenes, the fantastic showcase of acting skills and the brilliantly put-together musical score.
Completely deserving of all the awards it has received, this short film is one that will stick with me. Not only does it take the viewer on an emotional journey from start to finish, it manages to throw you deep into the horror of one of the worlds biggest tragedies and maybe understand a little more of what it must have been like from the perspective of the poor people affected.