In 1969 Canadian televison produceed a one hour teleplay by Jim Hensen called The Cube. It was only broadcast twice, and although you can find it on YouTube it isn’t terribly well known or noted. The Cube was certainly was my first exposure to the “protagonist in a box” trope. And fifty years later it is still the bar against which I judge similar experiences.
And there has been occasion for judging similar films. The trope has recently been used in science fiction, highly metaphoric short tales, and especially in horror films and shorts. It’s so constrictively defined and so easily used that it’s rare to find a truly fresh example of the theme.
Share? has broken out of that “box.”
Writer/director Ira Rosensweig and writer Benjamin Sutor’s work has made Share? a rare exception. It takes the boxed protagonist trope and makes it essential in an entertaining yet serious examination of social media and influential or influencers in that realm.
With a very small cast the filmmakers create a world where people are in boxes, locations unknown. And they have locked us into a view of their world, our screens representing a fixed point in one set of four stark walls, and a the view that never deviates, never pans or zooms, giving us the illusion of being in our own box. In a unique way, we’re getting the same experience as anyone we meet in the film is getting. Each film prisoner can also use a keyboard to view to specifically select another habitant in their own cube.
There’s an economy as well, a brilliant part of Share?‘s overall interpretation of the trope, and fundamentally what locks this into our current advent of social media influencers. If someone viewing your cube likes what you’re doing, they can send you credits. Credits are a currency essential to life; needed to pay for water, food, clothing, even garbage collection. You can also use them to reward other people whose cells you choose to watch on your screen. It might feel a little too on-the-nose, especially if you work with or are aware of people trying to make money off producing content for the internet. But Share? takes the idea in to some not-so-obvious areas and works with some really interesting ideas.
Eventually it become obvious that cube inhabitants can use the system for selective communication, and that’s where things get good.
It’s this kind of petri-dish environment that the isolation of characters really excels. It’s almost brutal, but this is where the fine acting of the very small cast comes in to provide a realistic reaction. A humanizing of those caught in this machinery. With Melvin Gregg (The Blackening)and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) getting the most “screen” time, lead the way. And the transformative and provocative performances of Alice Braga (The Suicide Squad) and Danielle Campbell (The Originals) elevate this even more. Again, avoiding details that would be spoilers here.
And that’s where I’ll draw this to a close. This is a standout film in the Cinequest ecosphere. If any of this sounds intriguing, go see this thought-provoking and inventive film.
Note: I suspect that you will be yelling a singular instruction to Gregg’s character near the end of the film, just as I was.
Let me know in the comments below.
August 9, 2023
San Jose California