“Cutaway“, a 2014 short film by Kazik Radwanski, is an experiment in close-ups; told exclusively with the hands of an unnamed protagonist, the film toys with the cinematic language of the cutaway, in instilling sole significance to its typically secondary function, and conveying the universality and ubiquity of hands, and their essential usage in all facets of the human experience.
A labourer by trade, the unnamed protagonist is seen managing both his work and home life with his calloused appendages; he shops for his soon-to-be-born daughter, cuts piping for a work project, texts his wife about her ultrasound appointment, and lifts his shot glass at the bar. There is a fascinating contrast of tenderness and toughness on exhibit: as though commenting on the projection and categorization that human beings tend to apply to others, Radwanski observes the sheer practicality and multi-function of hands. A synecdoche of the universality of experience and the likeness of all, the film positions hands as the truth of our likeness, the undersung pillars of civilization.
In that respect, the film also commits to a notion that in the universality of prehensile function, there is also a universality of choice; we are as capable of one as the other, and our ability to adapt our appendages for whatever scenario inherently shapes who we are. The protagonist is a layered individual, and his hands are only as principled and unprincipled as he can command his inner self. The pious hands that comfort his distressed wife and sustain a family through work are the same hands that indulge in the vices of drink, infidelity, and gambling. Our society was built with our hands, for the body politic of tactile undertakings, and it is this reality of infinite choice that we are faced with, which we must navigate with our own conscientiousness, or lack thereof.