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People, animals and buildings create a visual echo in this surreal and atmospheric animation.

0 – 5 | 2012 | Animation | Drama | Germany | Human Nature

“The sunken homeland; visiting a strange place, and the certainty that we are not alone. ECHO is about how childhood reverberates; about complicated relationships, and a departure to pastures new.”

The official synopsis of this short film is a great key to understand this almost abstract non-story, whose narrative is based on brief scenes in which dreams and reality mix continuously.

An anthropomorphic figure and his bizarre pet, a sort of surreal transfiguration of a quadruped, are Echo’s protagonists. After witnessing the literal collapse of their home, the two leave for a journey, during which they’ll meet other hominids intent on playing and dancing to tribal rhythms, will have fun playing in the endless desert lands, and will finally arrive at what will probably be their new home.

For each scenario and situation presented we see a dreamlike equivalent of what happens in the reality, some sort of visual echoes of the characters’ real experiences. Projections, fantasies and memories in which moments of affection, childhood games, houses that blend in together and split, are all elements of heterogeneous but complementary glimpses of our protagonist’s  personal experience. This non-sequential dimension, along with minimalist design and the contrasting black and white, contribute to the building of the short’s atmosphere, at once dark and oppressive but also full of shades of hope and happiness.

Totally devoid of dialogue, the short is entirely based on the communicative power of the illustrations. The houses that sink and then re-emerge, merging and separating from each other, the frenetic dances, the intimate moments of tenderness, everything is linked to  the ‘childhood reverbs’ mentioned by the director. The incessant march of the two characters is the visual and narrative counterpoint to the oppressive atmosphere: the go on towards a perhaps a better life. The choice to eliminate the soundtrack, with the exception of the drums that seem to beat the pace of this journey to another life, is striking.

This kind of animation  suspended between narrative and abstraction is perfect for the short film format, being able to convey emotions and moods  in a few minutes, without the need for a plot to capture the viewer’s attention. The pictures here speak for themselves.

Merlin Flügel, a young German animator, has directed some shorts and participated to a few exhibition with his video installation Peripherie. Echo was presented at the Berlinale Shorts program in 2013 and has been very successful in the international festival circuit.

Flavia Ferrucci

Flavia Ferrucci

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