“I probably should have picked up your gun”
There have been many iterations of the dark morality tale known most recently as “The Scorpion and the Frog”. Before its take around 1954, however, came similar fables from Aesop (“The Farmer and the Viper” and “The Snake and the Farmer”) as well as that of Arab/West African origins by the name of “The Scorpion and the Turtle”. What they all have in common is the idea that we cannot change what we are at a fundamental level. A scorpion may be honest when he says he doesn’t want to hurt the frog willing to travel him on its back across the river. But in the end base instinct always kicks in—oftentimes at one’s own peril.
Looking to bring this moral quandary into a more contemporary light, writer Trevor Riley and director Stephen Schuster have crafted the short film Track. It’s a gorgeously shot mood piece about a young man (Chris Damon) awakening from what looks to be a brutal beat down. Disoriented and confused, he sees a pistol and bullets on the ground, loads them together, and begins meandering down the forest landscape, following trails of blood and discarded money along the way. We can only assume he’ll eventually find his abuser—carefully timed edits of split second fisticuffs flicker during the journey for exposition—but what he’ll do upon their reunion is anyone’s guess.
With an original score by Brett Detar roaring atop the action as our only sound for the first half of the film, we’re really made to focus on Damon and his slow recognition of the past. The memories get longer—yet still barely blips onscreen—and he comes face-to-face with his opponent (Jon Peterson). Their conversation that glosses over specific details in a knowing way to shield actual facts from our knowledge remains intriguing enough to stir the emotions and understand within the context of the aforementioned fable. Knowing it is crucial because the revelation of their relationship renders the war between them all the more intense as a result of that context. But unless you were told beforehand, I’m not sure the clues are enough.
There are subtle nods like a scorpion slithering over Damon’s gun and Peterson reminiscing about a story from childhood without specifically naming it, but they worked because I already knew. Maybe they’ll work for you regardless because of the tale’s ubiquity, but these fables aren’t personally ingrained in me. Either way, the important thing to note is that it doesn’t diminish the short’s success. Visually stunning, well-acted, and edited with precision, its connection to the Aesop et al is merely one additional layer to a whole we’re already able to solve by gleaning from its mysteries. The cause of the central fight becomes moot while the simple fact anything could get between brothers so viciously proves our most resonate takeaway.
Watch Track for yourself here.