Everyone shall taste death. That’s why everyone should enjoy this next competition. By naming it DEATH you get rid of all the spoilers and get to enjoy the more important aspects of the animation medium. Even though the theme sounds very bleak it’s one of the most funniest programmes out there.
But how do you start such a grim theme? With a lot of death, obviously! That’s what we are promised in History of Pets, the opening film of the competition. What starts out as a potential Cartoon Network flick quickly becomes a chronology of narrator’s pets dying in the most bizarre of circumstances. The quirky style of the animation brings a few laughs to the audience while being conscious about its mission to tackle the issues of environment and pollution in urban areas.
We leave the dense European city to go to South Korea where a woman in suicide helpline is trying to prevent another suicide by convincing a young girl to not jump the bridge. She is a strong believer in kindness and forgiveness as human perennial achievements in their battle with evil. Things start to get a bit awry when she learns the victim in the other side of the phone had a role to play in her daughter’s suicide. Do universal moral principles stand a chance when your own kin is on the line? You have to find out yourselves in Crack, the second entry of the night.
We get back to the urban setting with the Croatian stop-motion At First Sight. A man lives alone in one of the endless line of tall buildings in sight. During one of his smoking wanderings at his window he sees a woman talking on the phone in the opposite apartment and he gradually falls for her to the point of stalking. Obsession and individual loneliness are two important factors in this film resulting with an unsurprisingly depressing end.
It could not have been a complete justice to the Death theme if there would not have been some sort of reference to Bergman’s iconic Death character in The Seventh Seal. The next feature Coda does just that. The end comes a bit too fast for a drunk man exiting a dancing club. Death visits him to tell him time’s up but he reluctantly refuses to go with him, demanding more pleasure from life. Death grants him his last wish and lets him revisit his happiest moments but those run out fast and by the time he is finally leaving this world, the audience is left to reflect on the superficialities that we consider as pleasure. Coda comes to Anibar after being freshly crowned as the Best Short Animation out of 4,249 short films in the prestigious South by Southwest (SXSW) and it’s undoubtedly among the top favorites here too.
What should have made Coda even better would be a sidekick named Jorka. I would definitely watch an animation or a comic called Coda & Jorka, that would definitely give Calvin & Hobbes a run for their money. To my dismay, Jorka onlycomes as a stand alone short film but to audience’s thrill it continues the theme of the after-death limbo. After a tragic accident of the protagonist, we see the departed coping with his demise. The stories of the mourners are connected by telephone calls going through the ether. Each individual deals with the loss in their own way but the big question remains; is actual contact between the dead and the ones left behind possible?
To ease up the tensed concept of the afterlife, it’s time for a laughter with Supervenus and Don’t Fear Death. Usually the shortest films in this festival are so rave and these two are no different. Supervenus is such a creative critique of the contemporary concept of women’s “social” anatomy that you will endlessly boast how cool it was to your friends who didn’t come to the screening.
Don’t Fear Death continues the hype of Supervenus with a 3 minute satire about all the great things you could do after you’re dead making the audience laughing even more with some stunning animation. To add to the occasion, this short animation is narrated by the legendary British comedian Rik Mayall who passed away shortly after.
Time has come to conclude the programme with Life is Beautiful, the third Netherlands entry of the day (History of Pets, Jorka, Life is Beautiful). Dutch have always showcased their skill in the world of animation but Life is Beautiful is a stand-out in terms of technical work. With a 3D animation that looks equally sophisticated as a Pixar flick, director Ben Brand takes us in the life of Anton (he looks like a middle-age Carl Fredricksen) who has been suffering all his life being the little man everyone likes to step over. Having none of it he decides to end his life but the afterlife isn’t proving to be the relief he was looking for, instead he has to fight again for himself like in the world of the living, the difference this time being his smallness is his advantage and not his weakness anymore. This film draws quite some parallels on how we perceive our value in life but most importantly it’s a very fun ride to the end of this programme.
By Adil Sylqa