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The Missing Scarf

An apparent children's story turns out to be a philosophical reflection on overcoming a loss, through existentialism, nihilism and minimal graphics.

2013 | 5 - 10 | Animation | Black Comedy | Ireland | Philosophy

One morning, Albert the squirrel wakes up and realizes that his beloved scarf is gone. This unpleasant discovery leads him to go look for it into the forest, where he’ll meet various animals who won’t be very helpful, being preoccupied with worries of their own. Albert will end up helping them overcome their fears, and these intense encounters will help him put his own priorities into perspective.

And so, what appeared to be a sort of nursery rhyme, suddenly turns into something else. The conversations between the squirrel and the other characters revolve around the phobias and all the great existential questions that sooner or later everyone has to face in their lives.

The owl is afraid of the dark,the beaver fears failure, the fox is worried he won’t be liked by his friends… The arguments exhibited by Albert to rationalize other people’s phobias are accurately philosophical and psychoanalytic.

The narrative tone switch has a great impact on the viewer. The first fear we encounter is that of the dark, and is countered with the lucid realization that without darkness there is no knowledge, because it is only by investigating the unknown that we gain new informations. From this point on, each reasoning will become more complex and elaborate, leading up to the biggest fear of all: the one of nothing. Existentialism and Nihilism merge in a last act that – despite the absolute minimalistic style – can easily be defined as epic.

The strong communicative power that comes from the clash of minimal graphics, a children’s tale approach and the complex philosophical arguments is absolutely unique. Irish director-animator Eoin Duffy had received a lot of attention with his previous short On Departure’, which addressed the grieving process in a similar manner. Here, he further develops the minimalism of motion design, and goes beyond,  incorporating infographics to help visualize the philosophical concepts. This particular choice is least risky in a narrative context, but it works.

From a technical point of view, the entire film was animated by Duffy, who used the open source program Blender for the 3D elements.  The three-dimensional fluid mobility of the squirrel creates a strong contrast with the essential multidimensionality of everything that surrounds him:  yet another little unsettling element skilfully managed by the director.

The entire short seems to be structured on the double: fairytale narrative and philosophical register, optimism and pessimism, infographics and narration, 3D and motion graphics, the continuous clash between opposing elements makes it one of the best animated shorts in circulation, and the infinite list of awards in the festival circuit it is a reaffirmation. The short film has also been shortlisted for the final of the Oscars this year and has just been nominated for a European Film Awards for Best Short Film.

The Missing Scarf  is narrated by narrated by legendary actor and voice actor George Takei, best known for his participation in Stark Trek – who agreed to take part in short after seeing some early images and loving them.

Flavia Ferrucci

Flavia Ferrucci

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