Love Death & Robots: The Witness Review

A still from Love, Death & Robots, episode three: The Witness

Sorry that this one’s coming up late, watching this short film made me reconsider if going through all of these would even be worth it. I’m tired, I’ve really got other pressing things to do, and unless something is out and out reprehensible I don’t really like bringing negativity to the page. I prefer to be excited about things I love. This short film was written and directed by Alberto Mielgo, I don’t mean that to sound like an accusation but it probably does.

The Witness is the most unpalatable one of these shorts yet, a feat, given as how it is, by quite a long way, the best looking so far (anyone noticing similarities will be pleased to find out the director was a visual consultant on last year’s SpiderVerse movie). A woman in a fractal, pastel version of Hong Kong — clearly inspired by the works of photographer Michael Wolf, and clearly an outsider’s view too — sees a murder happen in the building opposite.

A chase occurs and she hails a cab. Cowering in the back seat she desperately tries to reach her friend on the phone. But we already saw in the opening moments the body that the man left behind, hers. It’s obviously some sorta wacky time loop thing and all the effort put in to ramp up the tension is worthless. The inevitable ending is the lead boots that sink the entire enterprise.

Not that it does itself any favours in the meantime, it has another surprise up its sleeve, one which it is sure will astound you. The woman’s friend? He’s the proprietor of a FETISH CLUB!!!!! where she WORKS!1!1!!!1 as an EROTIC DANCER!!!!111!!!1!one!11!

The door is answered by a very queer coded figure wearing drag and devil horns. He rushes towards a very wide angle camera and the animators take great care to show droplets of spit hit the lens when they lisp. He is meant to be interpreted as a disgusting figure and his identity as a fool is confirmed when he leads the murderer by hand to watch his victim perform.

I’d hazard a guess that in a real sex club, odds are that there are some folks not wearing full body latex. Doesn’t matter to the series first credited sole writer/director for an episode. He casts these people as subjects for the cameras voyeuristic gaze. It does not matter to him to make a coherent representation of a world he can only comprehend as sordid.

The murderer gets groped by the other attendees and the camera spends a lot of time leering over our protagonists naked, dancing form. Why? The film thinks she’s hot and wants to take a peep, an honestly far grosser impulse than the fetishes this movie so obviously looks down on.

She’ll spend the rest of the film running back to the room that the murder occurred in, now only wearing an untied silk gown, of course she does. Even the action here is flat, as though all the interesting visual ideas were frontloaded and now it just desperately wants to reach the finish. Which it does, and happens exactly as you’d expect.

If your story is over in the audience’s mind as soon as it’s begun: do us all a favour and don’t waste our time.

Love, Death & Robots: The Witness is currently streaming on Netflix

One Star
Image courtesy of Netflix

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