“Terminus“, a 2007 short film by Trevor Cawood, is a visualization of inner turmoil, posed as a surreal speculation of an alternative reality, where strange beings roam with their human counterparts. A white-collar worker is haunted by a larger-than-life entity, a dancing effigy of round concrete pillars, and its presence is affecting the man’s ability to lead a functional life.
Interpreted as extensions of psychological ailments or inhibitions, these otherworldly figures act as hyperbolic representations of internal disquiet—a preponderance of characters are shadowed by a multitude of intrusive forces, from manifestations of their environment to more fantastical sculptures. The former’s attempts to wrest free of these unwanted appendages are only met with resistance, while the latter’s increasingly hostile encroachments translate into physical harm, a succinct metaphor for the real-world consequences of prolonged mental anguish.
Stylistically, the brutalist architecture that courses throughout the landscape of the film may be a commentary on the institutional estrangement that contributes to the appearance of such burdens in people’s lives, where a society raw and devoid of meaningful contact may be an encumbrance to collective well-being. The aesthetics of old film stock and an eerie soundscape further capitalize on a quality of distance, both as an intracranial evocation of emotional displacement, and a respective extracranial impenetrability of an alienating condition.
“Terminus” works exceedingly well as a dark comedy, with its drolly impassive antagonist a perfect match for the protagonist’s frangible psyche; yet, it is arguably even more effective as a deft illustration of the oft-ignored topic of mental illness. As evidenced by the ending of the film, distress can arise in unexpected ways, in response to witness or experience of trauma, for instance. Without due awareness, the abysmal fear of self-consumption, marked here by a dream of embodying misery, may very well be an unwitting, self-fulfilling decision.