Film run-time: 10 minutes | Starring Don McKellar, John R. Dilworth, Tony Daniels
Written and Directed by Chris Landreth, Produced by Marcy Page and Mark Smith, Music by Daniel Janke
“Subconscious Password“, a 2013 short film by Chris Landreth, is a rabbit hole into the subconscious—an artful and humourous tumble into the depths of one’s mind, where cultural and personal histories collide to produce exuberant spectacles, melding historical figures with the towering personalities of one’s own past. This labyrinthine journey begins when Charles, accosted by an old friend at a party, encounters difficulty remembering his name.
Structured as the titular game show inside the mind of the protagonist, animated with as much pomp and variety as the guests appearing on the show, the film emulates the format of ’60s American trivia game shows, with the noted exception of contestants who are influential historical figures, ranging from Yoko Ono to James Joyce to H.P. Lovecraft. These cultural forces are joined by larger-than-life versions of people from Charles’s own past, including a proportionately oversized babysitter from his youth and Charles himself as a giant infant.
After a lightning round which sees Sammy Davis Jr. and Salvador Dali provide clues to no avail, Charles becomes engulfed by a viscous liquid that projects him downwards into a sea, transforming into the primordial soup of conception. Charles effectively becomes a spermatozoon that penetrates an ovum, sparking a creative process of flashing images of people with the same name that he seeks, “John”. Arriving at this inevitable answer, Charles is launched back into the social setting and resumes his chat.
Eclectically styled and beautifully illustrative of the shifting mind, Landreth has created a wholly captivating representation of the inseparability of the events which surround us and the events which only we are privy to. By juxtaposing the influence of worldly figures with personal ones, but by depicting the personal as comparatively larger than the rest, the film perhaps suggests that, although the world has a great effect on our psyche, the private influence of the people closest to us likely takes precedence over all else, and their actions are surely as remarkable as the most indelible figures of history.