Most of my favorite films are social commentary films that are presented in unlikely genres. For instance, I absolutely love Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove because it addresses the very serious issue of nuclear warfare, but frames it in the form of a comedy. The film succeeds on so many levels, in part because you have the likes of Peter Sellers, arguably the greatest comedic actor of all time, playing multiple roles, but also because telling the story through comedy allows the audience to more easily digest a rather frightening reality.
“The Naturalist” is a short film I came across that also deals with a serious social commentary, but choses to do so within the confines of an unlikely genre. One would hope that the future portrayed in “The Naturalist” would never come to pass. In it, abnormalities of all sorts are shunned, homosexuality unfortunately being one of them. As our protagonist and his lover hide away from this oppressive world, a friend comes to visit to offer him a “cure” for his sexual orientation.
“The Naturalist” could have easily have been a drama set in present times. The concept of homosexuality being a “disease” to be cured could be paralleled to the current, atrocious practice of gay reparative therapy. Filmmaker Connor Hurley, instead, choses to go the sci-fi route, placing the film within a dystopian future.
This is something I feel all filmmakers can learn from. Just because you may want your film to deal with something like how your addiction to video games have caused your wife and children to resent you as a suitable father figure, doesn’t mean you have to reflect your life verbatim within an environment that’s similar to yours. Any setting or genre can be used to best communicate the moral of your story to the audience. The excellent sci-fi film Snowpiercer deals with class warfare by addressing it within a post-apocalyptic future aboard an eternally running locomotive. Dawn of the Dead is about consumerism. I’m sure the horror of the Holocaust could be addressed within a sword and sorcery fantasy provided it still deals with the core theme in a new and interesting way.
Hurley shot the film on a Red One MX with Cooke S2 lenses and was lit almost solely with natural light. Since the lead actress was sick with tonsillitis throughout the shoot, ADR was necessary for most of her lines.
As you watch “The Naturalist”, pay close attention to how a modern day issue can be further explored within unlikely settings and genres. Perhaps this might inspire one of you burgeoning filmmakers to break though that writer’s block and discover the best way to address your next big idea.