Film run-time: 11 minutes | Starring Jean Marchand, Mathieu Handfield, Sébastien René
Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Written by Jacques Davidts and Phoebe Greenberg, Cinematography by Nicolas Bolduc
“Next Floor“, a 2008 short film by Denis Villeneuve, is an allegory of human consumption and its ruinous trajectory, in excess. Guests at an opulent banquet feast on lavishly prepared dishes of exotic, endangered species, but at what cost? Distant rumblings and anxious expressions portend a possibility of peril, but the truth is far more spectacular and cataclysmic than one can imagine in this inventive, cautionary tale.
From the outset, Villeneuve and Art Director Jean-Marc Renaud contrast the elaborate feasting rituals of the diners with the austerity of the derelict building which they occupy, effectively a representation of the zero-sum consequence of overconsumption. The diners, dressed in sartorial choices that hint at different time periods, may be a collective amalgam of human rapacity over the course of centuries, amounting to a continued avarice which augurs their downfall.
The unsustainable practice, which bears down on the diners as they become fuller and heavier, finally gives way to the collapse of the floor and the entire dining elite, table and all; in essence, the collapse of the whole of humanity and the construct that supports it. The maitre d’hotel and those who serve him move to the next floor below to resume the ritualistic catering, but as they eventually find out, the floors of the world cannot withstand the weight of the establishment forever, and the insatiable must die.
Articulating a sense of woeful impuissance with a single stream of tears, Villeneuve perfectly captures the cycle of actions which repeat and snowball into a plight that can no longer be stopped. Interpreted as a descent into hell that quickens with every surfeit of gluttonous indulgence, the film is an allegorical warning against unabashed exploitation, that dooms humanity to an eternal demise. Finishing with an indictment of the viewer, directly through the fourth wall as though we, not the allegory, are the true complicit culprits of destruction, it is a stark reminder that the responsibility for our own salvation or slaughter rests with us.