One of the interesting aspects of watching short films is being able to observe a director’s growth. Some early shorts, like Martin Scorsese’s Italian-american and Spike Lee’s Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads offer such a complete and unique version of the world that the filmmakers seem to have been born fully realized – the themes, characters and tone are all present right from the beginning.

For some reason, even in these days of Internet excess, many short films are still hard to come by. Cinema 16 appears to be remedying the situation by compiling classic and award-winning European, British and American short films on DVD.

The latest, Cinema 16: European Short Films showcases an eclectic bunch of talent ranging from American wunderkind Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) to the European master of dogme, Lars von Trier.

My favorite of the bunch comes from British director Andrea Arnold. Her 2003 short film, Wasp, won an Oscar and, for some reason, has been difficult to get a hold of ever since. Wasp, descended from the Neo-realism school of film, tells the rather bleak story of a young, impoverished single mother, burdened by four children with no fathers in sight. Happening on an ex-boyfriend, Zoe (the wonderful Nathalie Press) attempts to go out on a date, without the guy discovering her plight. Both touching and suspenseful, Wasp, utilizes the short format perfectly with a small, intense story.

From Wasp, director Andrea Arnold went on to direct the feature length film Red Road, in 2006. Many of Arnold’s skills, so evident in her short, get the chance to open up and expand in the longer format.

The commonalities of tone and subject come through, with both films centering on lower class women, motherhood and a rather bent take on romance. Straying far from the stereotypical feminine gaze, Arnold’s preoccupation lies in women’s struggles with daily life. Strong and stubborn, the women do the best they can to keep their lives moving forward.

Red Road, reminding me a bit of Michael Haneke’s Caché, centers on Jackie (Kate Dickie), a CCTV operator. From the comfort of a secluded room, Jackie observes muggings, fights, attempted rapes.

Like a version of Hitchcock’s Rear Window or even of the neighborhood busybody, Jackie calls the police and reports what she finds. The unexpected occurs when Jackie sees a man on the monitor that she never expected to see again.

Arnold manages to keep both the tension and the confusion of this man’s identity throughout the film. She paints Jackie as a bit lost herself, so that we never really feel sure about what’s driving Red Road and why.

The good and bad get mixed up in such a way that makes us question our own judgments and what it is we really see. As a result, the truth becomes very much relative.

Grades: A, A

Cinema 16 will be available Sept. 25.

Red Road is currently available.