I just got around to watching the official Papers, Please short film.
I'm just blown away. It so perfectly encapsulates the feel of the film. The quality of the props. The quality of the acting – Igor Savochkin is utterly masterful in the main role. The sheer attention to detail. How it captures the gameplay aspects in an unforced manner. How it communicates the bleakness, the weariness, the hope – and the utter despair.
I can perfectly empathise with the unfortunate souls trying to enter Arstotzka – matters pertaining to immigration and citizenship fill me with dread – but also with the checkpoint inspector. How often have I wanted to do the right thing, only to be held back by the rules? How often have I thought, this time I'll let it pass, only for the other person to shamelessly take advantage? In real life, we can never know when mercy or intolerance is the better choice. The film captures that uncertainty, even better than the game did.
The only missing aspects are the expenses management – reduced to a lone photograph – and the fact that allowing someone through without the proper paperwork immediately ends in a citation. The latter is unrealistic, of course, but without these gameplay aspects, a lot of the tension is lost. My other issue is the ending. It's...unemotional? It's startling, but it seemed to lack impact, somehow. It doesn't stay with me, the way the beginning and middle of the film did. I think an ambiguous ending would have worked better to preserve that bleak, desperate feeling.
Nevertheless, for a ten-minute film, it is genuinely excellent. I love the fact that more and more independent works, including the original Papers, Please, are being produced with such excellent quality. These works only prove that creativity is far from dead.