Watching Todd G. Bieber and Julianna Brafa’s One Number 2, I couldn’t help but start singing “On Top of Spaghetti.” The film follows the journey of a single pencil as it gets passed around, abandoned, forgotten, given away and dropped out of the back of a truck. Along the way, the pencil crosses paths with several people, bringing a unity to all of their stories and problems.
Somewhere a white bunny named Harmony awaits being picked up from a post office box. A phone rings in a phone booth. A young man picks up the phone and is given his mission. The info is written on a pencil of all places and the chain of events is set in motion.
One Number 2 is a film with a distinct vision. It is one that is both simple and creative. Bieber and Brafa use quick editing and the occasional camera trick to create wonderful rhythm. It would have been easy to use the digital toys simply to make things slick and fancy. Instead they create a unique sense of time that is slow, but always moving forward.
I also really enjoyed the film’s soundtrack. As characters came and went and others wandered onto the scene, the music switched accordingly. And it’s not like the tone simply changed. Rather, styles ranging from meditative folk to hard solo drumming help to set the many tones and emotions that come to light in One Number 2.
This is a very confident picture that is carefully constructed and immensely intriguing. A pencil, a seemingly boring and mundane object, connects many people and each of their stories. Many of the scenes feel more symbolic than straightforward narrative, and as such One Number 2 is openly open for interpretation. And it says so very blatantly. In a sense, all pieces of art are open to what the viewer reads and brings to the table. Regardless of what the artist does, it’s sometimes going to be misread. By openly challenging the viewer to make their own choices of what they think the symbols mean, it leaves open that the artist might not have had a reason for some of the items open for interpretation. I didn’t read One Number 2 as something remotely pretentious, but one throw away comment might open it up for debate with someone else.
One Number 2 is a magical short film set in a very real world. It’s straightforward and complex at the same time. Skillfully constructed, the film is a marvelous stepping stone for both Bieber and Brafa.