Hypothetical situations becoming real are something many of us often daydream about, well writer Gabriel Miller enjoys turning them into short films. Except Miller's situations are often full of very dark humor and absurd predicaments. For instance one short, directed by Ben Mallaby, featured a husband castrating himself to stop himself from further cheating in While You Were Away while another saw potential father/son incest in A Reasonable Request, directed by Andrew Laurich.
Miller has again teamed up with Andrew Laurich, who directed and co-wrote, for their latest blackly humorous imagining called A Study in Tyranny. For this one Miller and Laurich based the short on the idea of travelling back in time to kill Adolf Hitler.
"I read that when people are asked what they would do if they could go back in time, the majority answer that they would go back and kill Hitler." Miller tells Smash.com. "But in the majority of cases, if this actually happened, it probably wouldn’t go as smoothly as people expect. Killing another human being is gonna be harder than you think, even if it is Hitler. So we got thinking about that."
Which means the short film takes an unexpected turn. For one, the assassin that's sent back isn't a Navy Seal grade hardass, as many of the people who presumably give this answer aren't, he's just a normal guy and he's very, very nervous.
Along with this concept the filmmakers also tied the idea in with the US election, because that was all happening when they were making the film. Specifically they tied it in with Donald Trump because at the time, Miller notes, he was seeing so many articles comparing the now 45th POTUS to Hitler.
"[There were] similarities in how he captured people’s imaginations, played on their fears, claimed to be the only person who can solve all their problems, and offered scapegoats for their problems." explains Miller. "The more research we did the more similarities we saw. So we decided to make the short something of a parable, or a warning from history. There’s a particular section where the time traveler lists the way in which Hitler won the public over, and they’re all straight out of the Donald Trump playbook."
They mixed this with elements and tropes from common time-travel films and shows, like the concept of a time traveller being misplaced, a fish out of water, a man or woman out of time. Like we see in Back to the Future.
Another influence was Austrain filmmaker Michael Haneke who makes very dark films which make you question what you're watching and question the whole concept of narrative in relation to the moving image.
"Stylistically, Haneke was a big inspiration." notes Andrew Laurich. "Very quiet compositions with natural light and heavy on the diegetic sound design. References for this were Amour and The White Ribbon. The thinking was that a Haneke style would draw an interesting contrast to the sort of absurdist concept. Of course, there’s a little bit of Twilight Zone in there [too].”