Nigel – by Natasza Cetner
A lonely gannet falls for a concrete bird in this relatable love story
Nigel is the Royal College of Art’s grad short by Polish animator Natasza Cetner. The London-based director isn’t new to animating birds, and as Nigel lands online, she’s working on a new animation about the stranger-than-fiction story of a headless chicken with Irish studio Cardel.
In the short, a mysterious walrus-like creature goes to some lengths to attract birds on a small, remote island; he carefully positions concrete birds on the ground, reproducing their call through an imposing sound system. Quite some time seems to have passed when, suddenly, the creature catches sight of a real gannet amongst the dummy seabirds.
After inspecting the surroundings, Nigel is soon lovestruck. Under scrutiny of the growingly perplexed and exasperated walrus-creature, the gannet neglects all the other birds, real and fake, devoting all his time, care and attention to his concrete companion. Alas, love is blind, and Nigel keeps giving his unconditional affection to the stone-cold bird, with nothing in return but its vacuous gaze.
For the making of this short, Natasza was inspired by the sad but true story of “Nigel no mates”, a gannet who fell for one of the dummy birds brought on Mana Island by conservation officers with the purpose of attracting colonies. Nigel spent years next to his concrete companion, and was eventually found dead by its side in 2018.
Although scattering concrete replicas of birds around the place may not come across as a very scientific method, this has been tested more than once by scientists, with a few positive outcomes (see this recent attempt to relocate penguins in South Africa to avoid their extinction). But whilst drawing upon a real story, the tale of idealised love of Nigel also recalls the mythological figure of Pygmalion, talented sculptor of Cyprus who, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, fell madly in love with the ideal of perfection of his own creation and begged Venus to instill life in it.
Come for the attractive, distinctive style of Natasza’s whimsical animation (and entrancing sound design by Yiannis Spanos), stay for the heartbreaking, incredibly relatable story of unrequited love of this little gannet; his hopeless love for an idealised, soulless companion deserves a huge dose of empathy. For who hasn’t, at least once in their lives, felt like poor Nigel?comments powered by Disqus