The Realm of Never: Moratorium (2001)
(Original Air Date: December 21, 2001)
(Release Date: July 2002 [Long Island International Film Expo])

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J.C. Mašek III... 

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J.C. Mašek III
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I'm not the first critic to review The Realm of Never: Moratorium and I won't be the last. As an anthology series for Public Access television (read: Low to No budget) the Realm of Never series has been compared to such shows as The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone. Looking at the episode "Moratorium", it's hard to deny the connection. This surreal, black and white whisper is rife with a lot of the same trademarks as those older anthologies, from the strange announcer's voice to the sparse sets to the subject matter.
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For more on The Realm of Never: Moratorium, check out:
  1. PowerOfCohesion.com
  2. The R.O.N.:M IMDB Profile
  3. The Long Island Film & Television Foundation/ Long Island International Film Expo family of pages

I, however, was reminded of a different series... from a different country, actually. The BBC had a long run of groundbreaking television programs, not the least of which was a grand endeavor in which they produced a version of every play Shakespeare produced... with a budget most Serials would use for a single episode. To work around the lack of grand set design the directors employed very tight close-ups on the actors' faces creating a claustrophobic feel. And it worked. Shakespeare is about the words much more than the visuals (Check out the Intro to Henry V if you doubt it).

Similarly, but in a completely different Genre, the BBC's Doctor Who was originally a black and white television series with a budget that was largely devoted to development. The show worked well enough to become the longest running Science Fiction television show of all time largely because it was well-written.

Of course, those BBC Shakespeare adaptations ranged from the 1950s to the 1970s and the early black and white episodes of Doctor Who aired in the 1960s. The Realm of Never: Moratorium was written, directed and aired in late 2001.

Writer/ Director Christopher Del Gaudio wasn't dealing with a 21st Century budget when he made "Moratorium". This science fiction metaphor manages an expansive scope based on writing and acting alone... thanks to some of the same claustrophobic camera tricks. Technically this shouldn't be all that difficult to do, seeing as how this show has less locations than My Dinner with Andre.

However, let's analyze this for a moment. We're talking about not a network series, not a theatrical film but an episode of a public access television series that has been individually accepted to Film Festivals and is managing to be mentioned by the press over six years after its original air date.

The story details an undisclosed time when a new enemy is threatening everything the civilized world is holding dear. A new war has enthralled the world and the nation is increasingly becoming paranoid. Freedoms have been exchanged for security and even homes have been wired with surveillance cameras.

It will surprise no one that "Moratorium" was largely written after the events of September 11, 2001. In that it aired on a New York station when the wounds were still fresh, the message was, and is, quite poignant.

However, Del Gaudio neither adopts the flag-centric rally that a December 21, 2001 airing might suggest, nor does he go the opposite direction, as a December 21, 2004 might suggest. Instead Del Gaudio's teleplay is a litany of questions asked by a man trying to make sense of it all set against a backdrop of surreal science fiction.

Our main focal point is Myles Goddard (Darren O'Hare) who has found himself in a military hospital as the world seems to be falling apart. His Aunt Amanda (Joanne Antonucci) has arrived to find him under the care of Dr. Beverly Mathias (Jacqueline Muro) and a man named Wyndham (Jason Murphy). A series of chemical weapons attacks has marred the country and left Myles infected with the Liresept Virus. As a consequence, Myles experiences a near-psychotic clarity and the shock of having his eyes opened for the first time.

His mind is filled with previously unseen connections, revealing who is behind what and the ripple effects and ramifications the involvement of each of the (potentially many) sides might have. His mind is so full that the information begins to spill out in a dialogue with Amanda, Mathias and Wyndham that slowly becomes a stream of consciousness soliloquy touching on everything from the philosophies of Plato to the mythologies of The Matrix.

And it's all in this self-contained, close-up rich, sparse settings that suggest not just a room or a building but a whole universe. Maybe more.

It all comes down to the writing here, of course. Otherwise this wouldn't have worked. There are times in Myles' near-Monologue that Del Gaudio's words seem to ramble and build upon themselves in a confused, elaborate build. Considering the time and location, this is understandable, of course. For the most part, the episode is thought provoking and even powerful in a way that a more lavish production probably would have failed at. The bare-bones approach forces a concentration on the actors and the words they deliver.

Although the actors do have a moment or two that feels like acting. This is explained in more than one way. The first is that the entire 29 minute short film is done in that classic bygone Dark Shadows method. The second is so integral to the plot I won't even touch upon it here. That said, for the most part the acting in this piece is very fine and feels worthy of the range that Del Gaudio requires both as writer and director (he's also credited as Director of Photography and Producer). Though all the acting is good in that Classic TV kind of way, O'Hare particularly shows aptitude with the long, meandering speech he delivers. If the guy is reading from a cue card it doesn't show (and it probably would, seeing as how we're close enough to count his fillings).

Del Gaudio seems to be so intent on transcending his budget (reportedly South of five hundred dollars) with the old time television approach that he almost goes too far with it, adding in post-production "film scratches" to the DV recording in a way that is obvious and distracting. It's also minor and far from the kind of complaint that could land this one in a lesser category.

Is The Realm of Never: Moratorium ready for prime time? Perhaps not. Were it to debut today, modern audiences would be unlikely to respond well to the long cuts, sparse setting and actor/ writer driven execution. Send it back fifty years and you've got a great entry into any of those thoughtful anthology programs. Even so, "Moratorium" isn't behind curve here. In fact it comes off as prescient and prophetic considering its air date and what was to come. Let's hope this one remains firmly in the Realm of Science Fiction.

Four Stars out of Five for The Realm of Never: Moratorium. It's very successful at what it sets out to do. Further it stands as one of those films (short or not) that keeps going after its run time is complete, allowing for analysis and discussion and further thought. Make no mistake, though, this one is most definitely a Science Fiction piece and is most firmly in that classic tradition. Is the writing Shakespeare? No. But it's good enough to ignite that welcome mind-trip, even without the Special Effects of The Matrix! It's safe to say they don't make them like they used to... Safe, that is, unless you take a good look at The Realm of Never. If you've ever wondered where shows like The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits and classic Doctor Who ever went... apparently the answer is Flushing. As to where I'm going... the answer is "The Next Reel". See you there.

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The Realm of Never: Moratorium (2001) reviewed by J.C. Mašek III
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But has never been to a Military Hospital.
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