Despite opening with a dizzying prelude that might leave some viewers waxing nostalgic for the 1987 sci-fi comedy "Innerspace," the award-winning short film “Wrapped” really kicks off at the 45-second mark. And it kicks off on somewhat of a queasy note with a close-up of a dead rat that just happens to be lying in the middle of a busy city street, a city that soon that reveals itself to be New York.
What transpires next to said dead rat is unusual. It rapidly begins to transform. Initially, the rat’s metamorphosis resembles the type of ewww-meets-wow! time-lapse decomposition footage found in so many nature documentaries. It almost immediately becomes clear, however, that the rat isn’t decomposing but turning into something else entirely.
From there, the CGI-driven “Wrapped,” created by a student team from the Institute of Animation and Special Effects at Germany's famed Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, gets pretty darn heady and pretty darn quick.
There's no argument that cities need more green space. 'Wrapped' imagines New York being positively devoured by nature. (Photo: Crave/Vimeo)
After the rat transforms into a mossy vegetated lump, plant matter begins to emerge from cracks in the street. The green mass spreads quickly, covering city streets and sidewalks before rapidly moving up — up park benches and fire hydrants; up street lamps, fire escapes and telephone poles; up the sides of buildings. Within a short time, landmark skyscrapers like the Flatiron Building are completely buried underneath a thick layer of vegetation.
The vegetative invasion is relentless. Trees sprout from the sides of office towers as flowering vines wrap themselves around the city's iconic rooftop water tanks. The Brooklyn Bridge is now a forest spanning across the East River. Every square inch of concrete, asphalt and brick in the Big Apple has been taken over by flora.
Not even a decent pair of gardening shears and a hori-hori knife can fix this now.
Concrete jungle, indeed (Screenshot: Crave/ Vimeo)
Envisioning an event where “unexpected forces of nature clash with the existing structures of our civilization,” the three-and-a-half-minute film is firmly rooted in post-apocalyptic urban ruin porn. That is, it’s a fantastical glimpse of what it would like if Mother Nature reclaimed — in this case, forcefully reclaimed — what was once hers. Yet the key difference with “Wrapped” is that nature doesn’t wait for human civilization to suddenly disappear a la Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us.”
It’s a full-on coup.
Of course, the idea of monstrous vines taking over America’s most populous city is nightmarish. In that sense, “Wrapped” plays as a sort of abbreviated, thinking man’s horticultural horror film. But by marrying real-life time-lapse photography and CG effects, the plant takeover envisioned by filmmakers Roman Kaelin, Falko Paeper and Florian Wittmann is nothing short of breathtaking. Watching buildings, bridges and manmade infrastructure crumble and collapse under the weight of nature is frightening but also majestic, stunning, beautiful. And as far as endings go, this one's pretty sweet, too.
An exploration of “the effects of time and change focusing on the the worlds seemingly never ending cycles,” “Wrapped” was first released in 2014 before going on to garner widespread acclaim on the festival circuit. It made its grand online debut on Vimeo earlier this month.