If the collection of films contained in the Polish Animation Focus Strand of LIFF 2020’s short film programme can tell us anything, it’s that surrealism is popular with the country’s animators. From the semi-musical breathing of a person with a trumpet for a head to a woman pulling off her lover’s face to reveal another underneath, many of these shorts see strange, expressionistic, and visually striking images take precedence over dialogue and traditional narrative structure.
The animation forms on display vary greatly, but each unique style is well suited to the individual story being told. The quirky gothic silhouettes of Creature’s cut-out animation creates a macabre atmosphere in line with the dark fantasy elements of the plot. The fluidity and realism of the movement in XOXO – hugs and kisses lends a mesmeric quality to the sensuous and surreal dance of its nude characters. Evening takes an unconventional approach to plasticine stop-motion, with the action playing out on a flat surface, somewhere between 2D and 3D.
One of the more narratively conventional films in the selection (and the only one with dialogue) is the charming Bernard, a story of a lonely polar bear struggling to make friends, as the other animals are too scared of him. The anthropomorphic protagonist is instantly endearing, his hulking form and small, cute face reflecting the contrast between his intimidating image and gentle nature. The animation is similarly appealing elsewhere, with a herd of reindeer beautifully flowing like a paintbrush across the landscape.
Bridging the gap between the traditional and the surreal sides of the collection is Jola Bańkowska’s Story, a selection of short scenes examining our relationship with technology. Some are relatable, some are sad, and before long they escalate from the recognisable into the humorously bizarre.
Finally, a special mention must be given to Bless You!, which uses imaginative and artistic imagery to visually represent the reproduction and spread of germs – something its creators would not have suspected, back in 2018, would be quite so relevant only two years later.
Polish Animation Focus can be viewed on Leeds Film Player until 19th November 2020.