The three animations selected this year for the short film sections have one thing in common: colour, colour and a little bit more colour. This is not only a matter of visual range within the colour scheme, but it also relates to the warm and possibility-filled stories chosen. What is often missing in short stories in general is instead featured in the animations of this year, the wholesomeness and strong storytelling is at the center of their success.
The only animation in the Semaine de la Critique selection is Fleuve Rouge, Song Hong by French directors Stephanie Lansaque and Francois Leroy. The story takes place in Hanoi, Vietnam, the animation shows a single day through the eyes of three brothers who have arrived in the big city of Hanoi for the first time from the countryside. Using a mix of animation and real life imagery such as photos and film, the visual style becomes a dreamlike hypnotic experience. Using a very feature-film-like sound design, the world of this short is an intimate and beautiful experience, evoking feelings of getting somewhere new and exotic. The storyline is a slow paced experience, going by like time would in a fly-infested hot and crowded Hanoi, but it reaches a more political conclusion by finishing its seemingly stand-still activities with a war-time bomb going off at the hands of unknown people.
The two other animations chosen for Cannes this year belong to the Cinefondation selection. Head over heels by British director Timothy Reckart is a story as charming as they come. Taking to the letter the long-term partnersâ experience of living in different worlds under the same roof, the director has created a realistic household where the husband lives on the floor, but the wife inhabits the ceiling. Showing the viewer the parallel lives of this couple who only interact when they somehow get in each others way, this is a strong visual portrayal of living side by side yet still isolated from one another. The house floats in space landing in a different planet where the floor replaces the ceiling and viceversa. It is a story about how this couple comes together again through difficulty that the director manages to narrate with no words whatsoever. The story works well as a reality translated into fantasy without ever sounding too far-fetched.
The shortest animation with a comic finale and a colourful poetic style, is Slug invasion by Danish director Morten Helgeland. In a parody of Hollywood war films and cliches of military heroism, the viewer is taken to the level of garden slugs who are at war against the meticulously tidy old lady whose garden they inhabit. The slugs are given personal characterization and their hunger for victory and a beautiful flower make this war a very personal one. Juxtaposing two world sizes and showing them as parallel levels, Slug Invasion is a witty and clever fantasy animation that in its 6 minutes becomes more than a sketch. It is a smart and well executed animation story bringing together genre cliches and innovation. Furthermore, it gives the viewer laughs and provokes thoughts that go beyond the simple story it tells.
In conclusion, the animations succeed in doing what most short films have major issues achieving, and that is clear and provocative story telling. Using original and innovative techniques (Fleuve rouge), beautiful colours and light (Head over heels), sharp and witty story lines (Slug invasion), the animations this year prove that when it comes to the human life world, the borders of reality are ambiguous. The possibilities for illustrating our deepest thoughts and most intimate experiences often lie outside the domains of the real. Having these three animation shorts reach such quality, it is worth considering whether it would not be worth instead of the long selections of often average quality short films to open an entire selection for animation shorts as a separate program.
by Greta Varts