Chandler Ryd | Courtesy

Con­sumed by mem­ories, Anna gazes blankly over the edge of a cliff. Mem­ories rush through her head, speeding away just like the vehicle in the accident. She remembers her son’s stuffed bunny lying life­lessly on the asphalt road, covered with smears of dirt and waiting for the boy’s return.

“Into the Plains,” a short film pro­duced by Chandler Ryd ’18, seeks to show the struggle and com­plex­ities of losing a loved one. Its cin­e­matog­raphy creates a thought-pro­voking and inter­active expe­rience for the audience.

The film follows Anna, a young mother grieving over her son’s death. Des­per­ately seeking to cope with the pain, she abandons her husband and sets out on a scenic road trip through Col­orado Springs. She con­stantly wallows in her thoughts and ignores her husband Jeremy’s con­cerned texts of her where­abouts. Through her solitary journey, Anna learns that grief should lead us to, not away from, loved ones.

The lack of dia­logue, use of sound effects, and subdued lighting connect with Anna’s heartache and dis­tress. The dim lighting creates a somber mood to rep­resent the heavy subject matter, and lighting changes based on the mood of the scene. In the present, Anna is alone and stares life­lessly at her reflection in gray, subdued lighting. In the past, she brushes her teeth and interacts with Jeremy in orange, bright lighting, rep­re­senting the joy she felt while pregnant. The past is more real and vibrant to her than the dull present.

The sound effects and limited dia­logue allow the audience members to par­tic­ipate in the film, in a sense, with their own pre­dic­tions and thoughts. In a scene of intense emotion and panic, Anna’s mem­ories are shown in a fast, varying sequence filled with loud, clam­orous sounds of ambu­lance sirens, police inter­ro­ga­tions, and speeding cars. This reflects how emo­tionally suf­fo­cated she is, evoking a claus­tro­phobic feeling. Engaging the audience, it becomes a per­son­alized expe­rience, helping the viewer under­stand Anna’s sit­u­ation better.

The limited dia­logue gives us insight as to what Anna is thinking or feeling. Throughout the majority of her roadtrip, Anna doesn’t talk and is alone with her thoughts. She made the decision to escape her grief alone, which is empha­sized when she ignores Jeremy’s texts, “Let me in.” Her mental iso­lation causes her to phys­i­cally isolate herself and dwell in the pain alone. Although she is alone in the film, the audience is expe­ri­encing the whole journey with her, raising the question: Is dwelling in grief alone the best way to overcome it?

What makes this film unique is its ability to make the audience empathize with Anna’s emo­tions, specif­i­cally sadness. These cin­e­matog­raphy effects help the audience sub­con­sciously form a rela­tionship with Anna, cre­ating an indi­vid­u­alized expe­rience for viewers and making the film more beau­tiful to them through per­sonal under­standing. The film can cause viewers to look back at similar expe­ri­ences of grief and bring a greater knowledge to the word itself. As Anna seeks to find healing alone, the audience joins her in learning that maybe it’s best to seek healing alongside loved ones.