October 30, 2006
Through bad timing or simple bad luck, I missed about half of the animated shorts showing at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma last week (including, sadly, Adam Parrish King's The Wraith of Cobble Hill, which Jason Vanderhill covered in our eighth issue.)
Of the few I did manage to catch, my single favourite was Our Man in Nirvana, a German tribute to psychedelic rock in which a guitarist suffers an accident onstage, dies, and finds himself exploring a trippy afterlife before being confronted by the arbiter who will decide if he gets to enter nirvana or will return to our world.
There's not a lick of dialogue throughout the film's 11 minutes; the story is told entirely through visuals and music. The look is inventive without calling too much attention to itself: The scenes in our world are presented in the style of Thai shadow puppets, and the afterlife is eye-poppingly colourful computer animation that remains puppetlike. (It's a nice conceit: The real world is just a shadow of what's to come.) One could complain that the afterlife wasn't quite trippy enough, but I thought it was just right; the design got the message across, was a pleasure to watch, and never felt cluttered or overly resplendent. It's emblematic of the film as a whole; director Jan Koester knew when to let things loose, and when to pull back. I'm looking forward to more work from him.