This week’s Staff Pick Premiere “Short Calf Muscle” is an absurdist black comedy hailing from the Netherlands. We follow Anders, a taller than average man in his 30s, who on this day discovers that the entire world perceives him to be a gnome, the mythological creature. With this surreal premise in mind, director Victoria Warmerdam sets out to skewer perception, class society, allyship, and racism across Dutch culture.
The propulsive force of the film revolves around the well-trodden sci-fi concept of simulation theory. Warmerdam asks “Are you who you think you are, or are you what the rest of the world thinks of you? If the entire world sees you as a gnome, are you a gnome?” In practice, it’s deeply funny to watch Anders grapple with this new reality, but the subtext is even more compelling, as he inadvertently becomes a symbol for how many marginalized groups are treated throughout the world.
Ahead of the release, we reached out to director Victoria Warmerdam to learn about her inspiration and writing process for “Short Calf Muscle.” Read on to learn more:
“The idea for ‘Short Calf Muscle’ actually came from a joke. When my producer (Trent, from OAK Motion Pictures) came back from the physiotherapist and told me he had a short calf muscle, I had to chuckle at the idea that the physio would have added to it that she often sees this in gnomes.
This premise: a man who is not small in stature, but who finds out that the whole world assumes he is a gnome, we both found a very stimulating premise for a short film. Then when I started working out the script, I let the main character Anders symbolize every minority group in society or actually anything that differs slightly from the norm.”
Why a gnome?
“The gnome stems from the physio joke, and therefore no other fantasy character was ever in the picture. In my opinion, it also contributes to the comic quality of the film because the Dutch are among the tallest people in the world. I wrote the lead role especially for comedian and actor Henry van Loon, who is also taller than the average Dutch person.”
On the writing process:
“Pretty quickly I knew that I wanted to start the film with the moment at the physio and that I wanted it to get out of control by the end of the film. In between, I tried to make each scene add up. Each scene had to go one step further in the ‘gnome joke,’ and of course the entire film had to be much more than an entertaining joke. The main character Anders — who is wrongly labeled as a gnome — symbolizes every minority group in society. The film is therefore full of references to how people deal with migrants, homosexuality.”
What is your best piece of advice to aspiring filmmakers?
“Make what you really want to make, not what you think others want you to make. And don’t be a dickhead (but that’s my general advice).”
What’s next? Any upcoming projects?
“I’m now working on a new, slightly longer short film, a futuristic feminist black comedy, to be shot in the upcoming months and due out late summer (2022). And since I have won a major award in Wales with the Iris Prize, which is £30,000 for an upcoming short film, I will shoot another short in Wales next year.”