Director – Erick Oh – 2020 – South Korea – 9m
Compelling, Oscar-nominated schematic of a self-contained society’s infrastructure behaviour and movement of groups of people within it over a day and a night – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Short Films In Competition section – Official 4
This feels like it ought to exist as an art exhibit in a gallery playing over and over again. Watching it online, I went back and immediately rewatched bits of it until I’d seen the whole thing about five times. It’s like a massive moving painting where the camera starts at the top and slowly works its way down to the bottom before slowly panning up again. It makes me wonder if an installation version exists without the panning where visitor can just watch the whole thing on repeat until they’ve taken it all in.
It’s a picture of a self-contained society with the ruler at the top (and a deity above him/her), an elite, the workers at the bottom and several strata in between. In the space of nine minutes, we watch the sun come up and the society go through its daily ritual from morning to night then daily renewal in the morning. The level of detail is simply astonishing.
Imagine if Hieronymus Bosch had made The Garden Of Earthly Delights not as a painting between 1490 and 1510 with a workshop of assistants at his disposal but rather as a moving, looping picture with all the tools available to the contemporary animation production house, because this work is on that sort of scale.
Director Oh includes the arts (somewhere near the top of the system – if only!); various systems of trading and bureaucracy; births, marriages and deaths; the education system, the judiciary and capital punishment; mining and food production; the disposal of sewage (and the odd corpse!) and even after hours entertainment for the masses in the forms of a restaurant and a brothel where sex workers service clients.
Also near the top are carefree children playing, a social construct which might have been taken straight out of Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927) where the grown up children of the city’s planners happily frolic in pleasure gardens at the city’s apex while beneath them the workers toil to produce the city’s wealth underground.
A further scenario looks suspiciously like The Last Supper (painting by Leonardo da Vinci, 15th Century) as well as the incorporation of various religious rituals into the overall social fabric.
Gaps can be found in the overall construction (where does this procession of people go after they disappear through one particular doorway?) and as you look at the thing and slowly piece it all together, you wonder how the world it depicts could be improved and how many ways there are to run a society (and would you want to be part of this one you’re looking at?) Nevertheless, the whole remains an extraordinary experience.
The film has won a few awards and been nominated for many more. And deservedly so. A masterpiece both within and transcendent of animation and film media.
Opera plays in the Annecy Animation Festival 2021 which took place in both online and hybrid editions this year in the Short Films In Competition section – Official 4.
Trailer (for what it’s worth – it’s a pretty poor trailer):
Festivals and Awards
Annecy International Animation Festival – Best Short, Cristal (nomination)
2020 / 2021 (93rd) Oscars – Best Animated Short (nomination)
Hiroshima International Animation Festival – Grand Prix (nomination)
London International Animation Festival – Being Human, Audience Award (winner)
Ottawa International Animation Festival – Independent Short Anmation, Nelvana Grand Prize (nomination)
Slamdance Film Festival
– CreativeFuture Innovation Award (winner),
– Best Animation Short, Grand Jury Prize (nomination)
SXSW Film Festival
– Animated Shorts Competition, Audience Award (winner),
– Animated Short, SXSW Grand Jury Award (nomination)
Zagreb World Festival Of Animated Films – Short Films Competition, Grand Prize (nomination)