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GOCRITIC! Animest 2022

GoCritic! Feature: Animest Short Film Competition 2


- Andrei Voineag picks three outstanding films from Animest's shorts competition

The second block of Short Film Competition movies screened at Animest followed the loose theme of how societal constructs affect individuals. Three of these films stood out to us.

Pieceful Day by Gabrielle Mouret

Pieceful Day, directed by French animator Gabrielle Mouret, is quite relatable in its expression of anxiety in modern society. The film, whose voice-over shares the protagonist’s thoughts as he wakes up and gets ready to leave the house, feels like a short poem about the lack of fulfilment that comes from leading a monotonous life. The same thoughtless morning ritual is repeated day in, day out, and a constant uncertainty, born out of a lack of purpose, looms over his identity and the meaning of the world around him. The simple black lines which lend form to shapes appearing on a blank background represent the lack of colour or variety in the character’s life. Spaces blur together, and we hear banal and contradictory statements expressed by the character in the voice-over, without ever being offered a definitive answer. At the end, he leaves the house to go to work, we presume, and we’re left to wonder while the screen fades to white and the end credits begin. No meaning or clear answers are given vis-à-vis the protagonist's inner conflict, though it’s hard to really describe it as such on account of it lacking any real substance - it's as if this man isn’t even fully human anymore.

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Sauna by Anna Lena Spring and Lara Perren

Sauna, a graduation film by young Swiss animators Anna Lena Spring and Lara Perren, explores the process by which the main character, a young girl, learns to stop worrying so much about what she perceives to be her own physical imperfections. She literally lets them melt away inside a hot sauna, so that she can then enjoy her body in the presence of others. The characters are designed in such a way as to highlight body parts which are perceived to be shameful. As such, the feeling of being overexposed in a public bath is quite convincing. The lines are simple, filled with pastel-like colours, and limbs and torsos have an exaggerated fluidity to them.

What’s most remarkable, though, is the accuracy with which the young girl's fearful nature is established. She’s sitting nervously inside a sauna when, suddenly, a man enters. The back of his testicles dominates the frame while the frightened girl looks on in the background. She continues staring at his genitals after he sits down. A mixture of fascination, fear and curiosity seem to overcome her. Then she looks up and the man looks straight into her eyes, which makes her feel guilty. Of course, we are later led to understand that her feelings were obstructing the truth, and that she hadn’t really felt threatened by the man, but by her own preconceived notions of sexuality and male aggression which society has imposed upon her.

Mom, What’s Up with the Dog? by Lola Lefèvre

Another student film, Mom, What’s Up with the Dog?, directed by French animator Lola Lefèvre, is the best of the three movies and by far the most surprising of all twelve shorts in this programme in terms of its plot. It follows a young girl who discovers her sexuality, not with the help of her parents, but by following the example of her dog. Her parents are unwilling to talk about or even mention anything related to sexuality, and all she’s left with is her laughing dog, portrayed as an obscene and constantly aroused creature with an extended and sloppily salivating muzzle. The lines of the figures seem overcrowded and nervous, as if insecure of their own shapes, underlining the lack of confidence in the young girl. It’s the most interesting film by far, which is well worth multiple viewings because the feeling we get at the end is that all of these social constructs we’ve built up in order to protect and distance ourselves - and notably our children - from the real world, can easily be brought down by something as simple as a dog humping a cauliflower.

These films question the burden of human social constructs and the way they sometimes work to distance us from reality and from others: in Pieceful Day they make us question our identity, in Sauna they isolate us from other people via our own false perceptions, while in Mom, What’s Up with the Dog? they become a barrier hindering normal human development.

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