Released on October 18, 2019, Dotted Lines is a short thriller by the German director and producer Selon Fischer. Although there is no set definition for a short film, any film with a running time under 40 minutes can be considered as one. They introduce characters, have plots, and evoke a range of emotions in moments. Dotted Lines fits very well into this rough definition. It introduces two characters, Resa and Der Teufel (the Devil), and has an intriguing plot. Resa finds herself in a murky unfamiliar neighborhood that exudes terror in ragged clothes. She does not know where she is or how she has ended up there in the first place. She frantically searches her bag for her mobile phone, but cannot find it. Then, she realizes by closing and opening her eyes she can find herself in other places. There are no conversations, however; the brilliant light manipulation and a fantastic sound design adequately compensate for the lack of words.
Fischer has gracefully created two realms in his short film which are reinforced and further heightened by his creative use of binary oppositions. It is through these different yet intertwined realms that the main theme of the film is presented. Resa’s nightmarishly illusory inner world is dark, unknown, and dangerous where she is being hunted by what seems to be Der Teufel. She does not find her mobile phone thus leaving her bag behind. It is not feeling connected, and not being able to create her own narrative of her self and her identity on social media that has put her in this time-less alienated world. When she closes and opens her eyes for the second time she finds herself in the parking lot of a deserted building. The walls are white and the clock is so bright that it is impossible to tell the time. It is here that Der Teufel first tries to take hold of her and she takes refuge in what seems to be a basement only to find her hunter hiding there. Upon entering a room, she turns the light on and a pair of handcuffs are what catch her attention among other objects that seem to be the remnants of a former life. This can also be a representation of her subconscious mind and those parts of her identity narrative that are so embarrassing or painful that she tries to hide or omit from what she consciously and cautiously reveals to the public through social media.
Social media plays an important role in the construction of identity. They enable individuals to develop narratives of their lives and choose what to expose and what not to expose in order to gain appreciation and win approvals. In a world without Instagram and other social media, Resa has to face her whole self and see the demons inside. This Resa is in sharp contrast with the Resa we see in the outer world in a café dressed in white asking Der Teufel, who now has turned into a waiter dressed also in white, for her phone. She is reunited with it, and relieved, sits cozily in a comfortable chair and starts connecting with the virtual world and its inhabitants rather than the real world and the real people she sees around.
The camera angles and its rapid movements along with the binary oppositions like dark/light, night/day, shadow/light, white/black, and real/imaginary add to the overall tone of fear and alienation. The music and the sounds do a great job in communicating the theme, creating appropriate fast and slow paces that build up suspense, and keeping the viewer engaged. Finally, the closing credits’ intelligent references to Instagram put the final touches to the film. Dotted Lines runs for less than five minutes but leaves its impact for much longer.