‘God: Serengeti’ was directed by Neill Blomkamp and is part of his short film series from his studio ‘Oats Studios’. It came out last week and when I first watched it I could not stop thinking about it. I have watched it again and again and still it has me thinking.
The film opens up with a bird’s eye tracking shot of some elephants walking across a field as the title ‘God’ appears on-screen. There is angelic musical score, linking to the theme of God. The camera then pans up revealing God played by Sharlto Copley whilst he reads a book and watches over the elephants in the field. His assistant ‘Geoffrey’ then asks him “Hows the book?” to which God replies “A little technical for my taste. I like the chaos more, I suppose.” This line of dialogue sums up the entire short. This is shot with a wide-angle, ensuring the table with the field on it, God and Geoffrey are all in the shot. It then cuts to a close up of the table, with God in the background, focusing on the development of mankind and putting God in the background out of focus. A man is seen rubbing sticks together as God notices him and says “What’s going on over there, Geoffrey?” and calls the humans “Funny” suggesting that God does not fully understand his creation and underestimates mankind’s capabilities. This is reinforced by his shock when the man tries to create fire, and when he says “I didn’t say he could do that!” God then commands Geoffrey to get rid of the fire, as only God gives the fire. The man who created the fire is seen falling to his knees and the other people are heard shouting in despair. God tries to control the humans even more by commanding Geoffrey to send the people back into their cave. The music has been slowly building up throughout this scene, while still remaining angelic with the vocals in the music. Elephants chase them into their cave (with the score becoming much more intense, with no trace of any godly presence within the music) and God says he must shrink their brains again. This implies that he has done this before, and links to the fact that it is human nature to be curios and to create. it also suggests that God has a problem with the way humans are and wants to control them as much as he can. The music becomes more twisted and sinister after he says this, which has connotations of evil. It then changes to more tribal music as the humans exit their caves, bringing the focus onto them instead of God. The people start doing a rain dance, which leads God to make Geoffrey give them some water. Just before Geoffrey sprays the water he says “God the merciful”. This links into bible and refers to the idea that when we deserve punishment, God blesses us instead. The humans then start cheering and screaming with joy. God seems fascinated with their reaction, saying they get so excited over the tiniest things. He starts to laugh and seems enjoys the humans behaviour. He then sits back and there is a beat, and then God says “Release the plague, Geoffrey.” Geoffrey then goes over to a case and pulls out a bottle which contains ‘The plague’. As he pulls the bottle out, rattling is heard. This reminds the audience of a snake, which also links with the bible, specifically The Devil. Geoffrey sprays the plague on the humans and they all drop dead. It then cuts to God’s emotionless face as he watches the humans die, and then the same angelic voices from the beginning come back as it fades to black.
When I first watched it I started to laugh at the beginning. I thought it was just a lighthearted comedy (although there are not really jokes). However, by the end I found it quite thought-provoking. I had to watch it over and over and I still don’t know for sure what the message was. I found the character of God very interesting. He was not evil. But he was not good. Throughout the whole of the film he does good things and bad things. For example he blows out the fire, and then gives them water, and then kills them all. It is a deep and complex character. Through Sharlto Copleys portrayal of the character we learn that he wants to control the humans. He does not like their curious nature and he thinks that he should be in control, which is why he tries to get rid of their fire and “shrink their brains”. The portrayal of the Human and God dynamic was interesting too. He speaks about them as if they are pets, and literally looks down on them. There are a few biblical references within the short as well as other symbolism. Although I think where it really stands out is the portrayal of God and the story, especially the end. It comes as a shock to the audience when God tells Geoffrey to release the plague, and really shows the cruelty of the character and his lack of care. He does not see humans as the intelligent life they are, and underestimates them and feels no remorse when he kills them all. Neill Blomkamp did a very interesting thing with this short film and I like it a lot. It has kept me thinking and I think it is very well made.