This excellent animated short takes the idea of isolation and identity all the way to the edge.
With many film festivals shuttered due to Covid-19, indie artists are increasing taking their work straight to audiences online. Tuna Bora and Jonathan Djob Nkondo made their SXSW selected short available on Short of the Week. Fantastic art brings to life heady themes of isolation, identity, and non-conformity in one great animated short.
A young girl works modeling clay into various forms. She notices that her own shadow matches whatever she makes. As she inspects her shadow, she crosses over into an odd landscape where self-image can set you free…or trap you forever.
A Progression of Notes.
Films about a philosophical theme can tend to bog down, over-focusing on one concept to death. I’d expected this could easily be the case in a work dealing with solipsism (the idea that only your own thoughts/experiences are real/definite and the rest of the world may be just your projection). Instead, this short moves deftly from idea to idea, concept to concept. Much like the main character, we follow the themes and images as they come, sometimes coming upon hard borders, other times imperceptibly crossing into new territory.
For those not too keen on philosophy, you don’t even really need to address it. Concrete themes such as being ignored, trying to understand and accept your body and/or identity, or simply following a flight of artistic fancy all make up part of Solipsism’s appeal.
Form and Identity.
The artistic form of this film perfectly follows its function. The character design uses simplicity to get at complexity. A minimum of shapes and colors combine evoke people and things. A few geometrical shapes with an eye and a mouth come together to create an energetic little girl, while sinuous lines represent how the people we meet view their own identity/body.
The abstraction never feels forced or distracting. Stripped down to just the necessary parts, Bora and Djob Nkondo fill the remaining space with ideas.
What a Concept!
Solipsism is a real gem. The art style is evocative and appealing. Minimal sound work (and no dialogue) give the piece immediacy – we’re experiencing something weird and internal right alongside our protagonist. Solipsism covers lots of territory in just seven minutes, yet always makes the leaps from one situation or idea to another feel like a graceful pirouette instead of a sudden lurch.
It’s a shame that SXSW 2020 is canceled; this film could easily have taken the award in its category. The silver lining is that now non-festival goers can watch many great SXSW shorts at home!