• Country: United Kingdom
  • Initial release: N/A
  • Film Director: Keir Burrows
  • Running Time: 7 Minutes
  • IMDB Grade: 7.0

In the world of short films, there are few that leave a lasting impact on the viewer. Keir Burrows’ Donkey is one such film that manages to captivate and provoke thought in just under seven minutes. Released in 2011, this non-linear narrative explores themes of friendship, regret, and the complexities of human nature. Through the use of powerful narration, desaturated visuals, and a minimalist soundtrack, Burrows takes us on a journey that challenges our perceptions and leaves us questioning our own priorities. In this article, we will delve into the various elements that make Donkey such a compelling and thought-provoking short film.

The Story

Donkey tells the story of a young man named David who reflects on his past and the choices he made. The film begins with David narrating his childhood and his friendship with a boy named Stanley. Stanley was a charismatic and talented individual, known for his ability to imitate animals, particularly the donkey. David recalls the joy and laughter that Stanley brought to their lives during their early school years.

However, as they transitioned into high school, David chose popularity over friendship. He became a bystander as Stanley became the target of bullying. Instead of standing up for his friend, David joined in on the teasing, using it as an opportunity to gain acceptance from the popular crowd. This decision would have lasting consequences on their relationship and David’s perception of himself.

The Themes

Bullying and Regret

One of the central themes explored in Donkey is the impact of bullying and the subsequent feelings of regret. David’s decision to abandon his friendship with Stanley and partake in the bullying is a reflection of the darker side of human nature. The film raises important questions about the choices we make and the consequences they have on others. It serves as a reminder that our actions can have lasting effects, even if we don’t immediately recognize them.

Reflection and Perspective

Through David’s narration, the film emphasizes the importance of reflection and gaining perspective. David takes daily walks in the morning, using them as a way to contemplate his life and gain a better understanding of himself. This serves as a metaphor for the larger theme of introspection and the need to reevaluate our priorities. It prompts us to question whether our own pursuits of success and material wealth are truly fulfilling or if there is something more meaningful that we may be neglecting.

The Illusion of Success

Donkey also explores the illusion of success and the trappings of material wealth. David, now a successful banker, boasts about his riches and shows off his expensive watch to Stanley. However, as he spends time with Stanley and his wife, he begins to realize that true happiness and fulfillment cannot be measured by wealth alone. Stanley and his wife lead simple lives, focused on love, family, and pursuing their passions. This stark contrast challenges David’s perception of success and prompts him to question the choices he has made.

The Visuals

Desaturated Visuals

One of the defining visual elements of Donkey is its desaturated color palette. The use of black and white imagery creates a sense of nostalgia and adds to the overall melancholic tone of the film. The absence of vibrant colors serves to emphasize the emotional weight of the story and allows the viewer to focus on the characters and their experiences. It also enhances the timeless quality of the narrative, making it relatable and relevant to audiences regardless of the era in which they watch it.

Symbolism and Metaphors

Throughout the film, Burrows employs various symbols and metaphors to convey deeper meanings. The swinging chain at the beginning represents the innocence and carefree nature of childhood. The barbed fence serves as a metaphor for the emotional barriers that Stanley faces as a result of the bullying. The rain falling into a body of water symbolizes a change in mood and the realization of past mistakes. These visual cues add layers of complexity to the narrative and invite viewers to engage in a deeper level of interpretation.

The Soundtrack

Minimalist Sound Design

The soundtrack of Donkey is minimalistic yet impactful. It consists of slow, long-lasting music notes and piano melodies that create an atmosphere of introspection and reflection. The music serves as a backdrop for the narrator’s voice, which is delivered in a low-key manner. This deliberate choice allows the narration to take center stage and emphasizes the emotional depth of the story. The use of silence at certain moments also adds to the overall impact, creating a sense of tension and anticipation.

Diegetic and Non-diegetic Sounds

The film incorporates both diegetic and non-diegetic sounds to enhance the storytelling. The familiar tick of a watch serves as a recurring motif, representing the passage of time and the monotony of David’s life. The use of animal noises, particularly the donkey’s braying, not only connects to Stanley’s talent but also serves as a reminder of David’s past actions. These sounds, combined with the narration, create a powerful audio experience that immerses the viewer in the emotional journey of the characters.

1 Film Review

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  • Donkey is a masterful short film that manages to convey complex themes and emotions in a concise and impactful manner. Keir Burrows’ storytelling techniques, from the powerful narration to the desaturated visuals and minimalist soundtrack, work in harmony to create a thought-provoking cinematic experience. The film challenges us to reflect on our own choices, prioritize our relationships, and question the true meaning of success. It serves as a reminder that it is never too late for self-reflection and personal growth. Donkey is a must-watch for anyone seeking a profound and introspective viewing experience.