It’s the end of the world, the Hubble Space Telescope having detected “a gravitational rip” at the edge of the galaxy; within a thirty years it will have spread across the cosmos and destroyed the Earth and all life upon it, a whole generation having grown up and come of age in the knowledge that they will be the last.
“Keep your head down and act like everything’s fine,” is how Cerys cynically sums up the official government standpoint, but like many she has thrown herself into hedonism and oblivion, partying to numb the shock of the imminent end not of her own self but of all life, and why not?
“Dying young’s what rock stars do,” is her flippant justification, but other cultures have reacted in different ways, and with the first visible evidence appearing in the skies over Argentina she and her boyfriend Gwylim leave on their final trip together, to find themselves and hopefully a measure of peace in India.
A short film written and directed by Lauren Cooney who also stars as Cerys, Pendulum is undeniably beautiful, starting as a celebration of life under the shadow of death, of rejecting not life in its totality but life which is unfulfilling and materialistic, embracing the culture and acceptance of another land and people.
Yet what Cerys and Gwilym (Scott Michael Wagstaff) find as the end approaches under luminous skies is not what they hoped for, the spiritual retreat to which they are welcomed by Derryk (Tom Sawyer) not as enlightened as he would present it to them and his other followers.
Described as a science fiction film and released on the platform Dust which promotes that genre; Pendulum only peripherally fits that description, the threat beautifully rendered but tenuous and undefined both in terms of what a “gravitational rip” is and how it could arrive from the edge of galaxy so swiftly; if travelling faster than the speed of light, how would an optical telescope have seen its approach?
The end of everything and the response of humanity towards it has been frequently explored in science fiction, and while Pendulum could not hope to compete with the budget and scope of the classics The Day the Earth Caught Fire or Children of Men, the attempt to make it global only serves to emphasise its hollowness; last years’ Souls of Totality considered a smaller group more intimately and effectively.
The narrative slight, Pendulum driven by the visuals, the locations more alive than the characters, it is unclear if the film is intended as a critique of the foolishness of new age hopes in an age when action is needed or to suggest that even in the worst of times men will still behave selfishly and treat women badly, Cerys’ ultimate acceptance that she is alone suggesting no deeper resolution.