Niuniu is a stylistic short film that centers around a withdrawn young woman and a her pet snail, which may or may not be physically real. The film opens with a strange scene of the snail, with it’s long antennae and slimy body travelling across the frame through a space that we cannot quite define. As the camera pulls away we see that the snail is exploring what looks like a doll house, situated in the middle of a bedroom where a young woman is gazing in at it as retro eighties-style pop bumps on the soundtrack. There is an abrupt cut here and she is suddenly at a dining room table, where she sits clenched and uncomfortable as she watches her roommate stare intently into her cellular phone. She makes a couple of ineffectual physical gestures toward staring a conversation, but ultimately fails to get a word out, and she finally pulls back and lowers her head. All the while the snail climbs up the side of the table.
Next we see the woman wandering through a party, looking to various people, but like her pet, seeing to slide off of everything without making a connection of any substance. In an illustrative example of this, someone passes by her and announces that “her birthday’s coming up.” She responds with polite thanks and leave the party. Back at home she sets things right with some more 80s style music as she sways and dances in her bathroom. Her partner is the snail, which clings to her hand without movement, and is easily affixed to mirror as well. She goes for a walk with it after this, playing with it in the grass. This pulls back into a composition that includes a waterside walkway and two figures retreating in the distance. Whether intentionally or not, the composition bring to mind “The Scream” by Evard Munch and emphasizes the lack of outward expression from the main character. Using some miniature props back at her home, she throws a quiet birthday party for the snail, in place of-or as-herself.
The film works very well as a playful and colorful bit of expression. The bright neon colors, which like the music, also seem to channel the 80s a little bit, are another great contrast which tells us something about this main character. It serves to reflect what is happening internally as the character travels through social circles that she doesn’t take much part in. The snail could be seen as a type of spirit animal, one that besides the overt symbolism of having a shell to withdraw into, moves almost imperceptible through a process that doesn’t even require appendages. The scene between the main character and her roommate is probably among the most interesting, as it’s the time when she is most physically close to another person in the film. The result is a shot which lacks the color of any of the other moments, shows the main character at her most uncomfortable, and the snail is almost hiding in its’ place along the table side. This is a great example of how to make an effective short film with a simple premise and small budget.
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