On November 20, 2015

The Movie Diary: When the walls close in

By Dom Cioffi

After the devastation and destruction of World War II, Europe had to rebuild both its economy and its infrastructure. This rebuilding would take time, resources and an immense amount of creativity given the task at hand.

One person who was up to the job was Villum Kann Rasmussen, a Danish entrepreneur and inventor who saw an opportunity amidst the chaos.

At the conclusion of the war there was a massive shortage of building materials, which meant that constructing new dwellings was not only costly, but many times wholly impractical. Instead, most businesses and people worked at updating or converting existing spaces.

A school in Copenhagen (which was seeing an increase in enrollment) had to find more space for students. Since building a new campus was out of the question, the administration decided that they needed to convert existing attics into livable spaces.

Enter V.K. Rasmussen.

In 1942, Rasmussen patented his first roof window with a vision of bringing daylight and fresh air into previously dark and unlivable spaces. He installed his first roof window into this school and the rest is history.

Rasmussen named his new company VELUX, “VE” from the word “ventilation” and “LUX” from the Latin word for “light.”

Over the next 30 years, VELUX would grow to over 1,000 employees and expand throughout every European market. In 1975, VELUX set its sights on the United States, first setting up a sales office in Boston, Mass., before eventually building a manufacturing plant in South Carolina.

Over the next 40 years, VELUX would not only create but also dominate the American skylight market (the infrastructure in the U.S. was very different than Europe so the traditional roof window was not applicable. Instead vaulted ceilings in the U.S. needed a unique product: the skylight).

Other brands attempted to enter the market, but because of the unique demands of a window on the roof and the obvious leaking issues associated with such products, most failed. VELUX skylights, with their unique design and proprietary materials, thrived.

Today, VELUX is the global leader in roof windows and skylights, bringing daylight and fresh air into more and more homes as people realize the benefits of flooding their dwellings with healthy, natural elements.

This week’s film, “Room,” prominently features a skylight, not as a conduit of fresh air, however, but a tempting representation of the world just outside of reach.

Based on the award-winning book of the same name, “Room” is a disturbing portrait of one of the greatest crimes one person can commit against another: dungeon imprisonment.

The story involves a young woman who was abducted at 17 years old and forced to live in a sound-proof, escape-proof “shed” in the backyard of her abductor’s house. Two years into her confinement, the young woman gives birth to a son whom she raises with her in captivity.

Much of this story is told through the vantage point of the young boy who has never known a world outside of the room. He has access to a television but his mother has told him that nothing on the TV is real – only what exists on the inside of the room is real. He stares out of the skylight and wonders, but the breadth of the world remains elusive to him.

I can probably rattle off a half-dozen films in my two decades of reviewing that have affected me to the level of this picture. From the moment this film started I was deeply uncomfortable and almost claustrophobic as I imagined an existence within the confines of one small room.

The psychological repercussions of such an experience are easily understood, but what this film also does brilliantly is examine the same pressures that arise once the world opens up, not only for an adult with a previous sense of the real world, but also a child who is wholly unprepared for such a radical unveiling.

The bottom line is that “Room” is an exceptional film based on an exceptional story of survival. However, this is far from a feel-good picture and is instead a poignant examination of what we understand reality to be.

Check this one out if you want to see an Academy Award wining performance by lead actress Brie Larson and an unbelievably surreal performance by eight-year-old Jacob Tremblay (child actors can make or break a film and in this case Tremblay sends this film into the stratosphere).

I highly recommend this movie to anyone who appreciates a thought-provoking storyline that forces intense emotional reactions in its audience (I’ll admit it, I had a tear streaming down my face on several occasions).

This film affected me deeply; I think it will do the same to you. A confining “A” for “Room.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him atmoviediary@att.net

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