Shadi Adib

FUSE | How do we best kill the mouse?

Ever wondered what it would feel like to be a mouse caught in a mouse trap? To be locked up with nowhere to go? To be waiting for the final verdict without a chance to escape it? Well, leave your tissues for The Green Mile, instead sit back and enjoy the nauseating, bewildering ride that the animation short Fuse (2018) offers its viewers during the last minutes that a trapped mouse has remaining. 

Squashed. Pierced through. Burned alive. Shot. All of the above are options to kill the mouse, suggested by his capturers before the actual execution. Conveniently, these scenarios are also graphically depicted by director and animator Shadi Adib. When experiencing the last few minutes of the mouse’s life, the POV of the animal and a small peep-hole in a box-turned-mouse trap offer us a repugnant view of the outside world. Distorted, animal-like characters from a cartoonish yet nightmarish fable argue over the best way to slaughter their captive, getting more brutal and bloodthirsty by the minute. With exquisite animation, original formal choices (the iris shot finally returns honourably to the screen) and gruesome content, the short film celebrates the murderous and cruel sides of humankind that only vermin get to see. 

Being adapted from a short story by Iranian writer Sadeq Chubak, the film takes the story’s sharp socio-political criticism and allegorical allure to tell a universal story of our own inhumanity. However, the reflection of the underbelly of society by the novelist rapidly turns into a replicating of Dumbo’s Pink Elephant Parade on even more drugs. In order to convey the characters’ “euphoric madness”¹, the characters burst out into song near the end of the film and dance the danse macabre in a spectacular and bizarre grande finale. And then they torch their victim. This bad trip slash musical, caught on film, literally ends with fireworks when the burning mouse reaches a gas station and wipes the horrible world of Fuse from the face of the earth. 

Sounds dreadful, right? And that’s exactly what Adib achieves so splendidly with this film. While the experience of being slaughtered and humiliated as an animal in a human world gets terrifyingly close, the viewer also gets to enjoy the very ugliness and filthiness of humans. Despite the despicableness of these figures, Adib brings them to us in humorous, grotesque and never tiring ways. The hypnotizing cadence of the film invites us to join the madness, to lose ourselves in the horror for just a moment and then quickly condemn the scumbags when they get blown up.

¹ Quoted from an interview with Shadi Adib, read the full interview here.

Mitchell van Vuren; recently graduated Media student; independent filmmaker; huge film snob. Spellbound by: Pulp Fiction, Endless Poetry and A Fistful of Dollars. General state of the spotless mind: Rebel without a Cause and In the Mood for Love.