The Jester's Song

By Michael Woloson | Drama
A lone scavenger fights to survive after a massive apocalyptic event.

The Rapture has happened, and most of the population has disappeared, leaving behind a desolate, empty world. Those left behind must scavenge, scrap, fight and even kill to survive.

Amid this landscape, a lone scavenger named Thomas makes his way through the world. Pitiless and willing to do anything to survive, he isn't afraid to inflict violence. But when he comes face to face with a remnant of the past, it awakens dormant emotions in him, ones he thought were long forgotten.

Written and directed by Michael Woloson, this short drama riffs on the classic themes of the Western, where people must survive a harsh, dangerous environment, even if the attempts cost them their humanity. Handsomely shot and beautifully crafted, this film has a post-apocalyptic take on the Western genre. Instead of a raw empty West, the landscape is now the ravages of suburbia. But the survivors amidst the decimated dwellings are still as unflinching and merciless as their cinematic predecessors, and as quick to murder and maim.

True to the laconic nature of the genre, the writing features very little dialogue. Much of the film's initial impact comes from its striking evocation of a ravaged, haunted world and economical world-building. Thomas's encounters with the other hard-scrabble scavengers and vagrants are marked by their ruthlessness and silence, as they battle over the dwindling resources around them.

This silence is ruptured, though, when Thomas hears the sound of a guitar strumming in the distance. It alerts him to the sound of another person that might have something he wants or needs. But as he confronts the guitarist, he becomes intrigued by the music. Forcing the musician to play, Thomas's hardened demeanor falls away, a transition captured by actor Joey Bader with a kind of wild, boyish innocence. He reveals a rusty sense of joy at the pure pleasure of hearing a familiar, beloved song -- a sensation that's relatable, and even primal, and one long forgotten in such a world as this.

The music at the heart of "The Jester's Song" is iconic, well-known and beloved. But in this dystopian land, it becomes an ironic, even elegiac comment on what has been lost -- or perhaps what was never achieved, much to society's detriment. The beauty and tragedy of the film are how it captures both the lost beauty and primal happiness that music gives us, but also how fragile joy and happiness are, especially in a cruel, callous, dog-eat-dog world. The end of "The Jester's Song" stays true to its world and vision, for better or worse, and invites questions of just how much humans shape their environment as much as are shaped by it.

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