A young woman is going about her life in South Korea, walking in the streets on her way somewhere, when she discovered a catastrophe about to happen: her phone is about to run out of battery power, and she’s in the middle of a phone chat party.
Desperate to maintain her lifeline to her digital life — which has become entangled with her own survival as a human being — she roams the city, trying to find some kind of recharging station or area to charge her phone. But her small tasks turn into a strange journey into ultra-modernity, revealing just how tethered she is to her connection to it.
Writer-director Hugo Keijzer’s sci-fi short has themes of technology, digital life and mobile devices at its core, but it also has a tongue-in-cheek sense of satire as well as a sharp eye for the dazzling yet melancholic surfaces of modern life, filled as they are with digital images and the constant flow of information.
Visually, the film is a marvel, with kinetic, powerful camerawork that feels as fluid and fast-moving as electricity, and a sense of color and light that gleams with the seductive coolness of the ultra-contemporary. The main character’s world is saturated with screens and moving images, full of information and movement. She’s often shot in wider shots from below, emphasizing her smallness as a human being within this digital cityscape.
As a piece of storytelling, the narrative is simple, but the film’s command of craft nimbly elevates the main character’s search for a charger into the realm of the action-thriller, adding a pulse of excitement as well as a level of the absurd, even satirical. The editing and pacing all build up to a crescendo of energy and suspense that wouldn’t be out of place in a blockbuster action film — but it’s all over a phone with a dying battery.
The elements all combine in “Battery Life” with a propulsive power, pulling viewers into the experience with the energy of a lightning bolt — but the bravura editing, pacing and camerawork are all over a phone with a dying battery, a fact that is both wryly hilarious and slyly ridiculous. Our heroine reaches the end of her quest on an almost operatic note, which also straddles the line between funny and absurd. But though it feels outlandishly emotional, it’s also prescient, considering just how attached we are to our devices and to constant digital stimulation — not to mention pretty relatable, if we’re being honest with ourselves.