Film Scratches: Camera + Hormones = Snooping: Stop (2014)
Film Scratches focuses on the world of experimental and avant-garde film, especially as practiced by individual artists. It features a mixture of reviews, interviews, and essays.
A Review by David Finkelstein.
Stop, a 28-minute short by Lydia Janbay and Matt O’Connell, realistically recreates the look of a VHS home video circa 1995, complete with random edits, swinging camerawork, and the sounds from objects rubbing on the camera mic which typify home videos. The camera is a birthday gift to 13-year-old Dylan (Shun Goss), who immediately begins using it to document his suburban American family, primarily stalking and spying on his 18-year-old stepsister Rachel (Ana Zimhart). Dylan catches her most intimate moments and documents the breakdown in the relationship between the acting-out teenager and her parents.
The plot of Stop is banal and familiar in the extreme, although very authentically performed by the entire cast, complementing the authenticity of Janbay and O’Connell’s VHS videography. The central force in the video is Dylan’s drive to capture everything he sees on tape. We recently learned from Edward Snowden that the availability of new technology has inspired the US government to begin (unconstitutionally) recording the phone calls and emails of every US citizen, so it is revealing to see how giving the technological tools for surveillance to a 13-year-old boy unleashes in him the uncontrollable urge to invade his sister’s most private moments, from behind the safety of the camera. An ordinary boy’s fascination with sexuality becomes, aided by the camera, something that turns him into a kind of monster. Marxist media analysis might claim that empowerment begins when ordinary people control the means of the production of images, but beware what happens when some actually get ahold of them. Stop portrays a moment in (pre YouTube) history when the seeds of this cultural shift were first being sown.