"An ice floe, a big man, a fish and a reality not quite like the others."
Away is a short film created by Mathilde Pepinster about a man who thinks he’s living on an ice floe, while everyone around him finds he’s making a mess at a supermarket. It was produced as the director’s graduation film during her Master in Animation Cinema at Brussels-based La Cambre, a school known for its taste for surrealism.
The short features one main character (Rémy) with a number of supporting characters, internal and external conflicts, and a focus on telling a story while continuously switching between two levels of subjectivity (and narrative points of view) for creating comedy.
Staging plays a key role in the short: Away is staged in two locations, the Arctic and a supermarket (the first one could be interpreted as subjective perception from Rémy). Editing is used to stitch together the different locations, maintaining temporal continuity of actions while breaking spatial continuity.
Color palettes help identify the two main locations. Great work has been dedicated to environment design, characters and objects. The stop motion aesthetic has been enhanced with additional 2D animation.
Visual rhythm is handled mostly through editing and motion within the frame, plus a few camera moves. It increases when the fish triggers a fun chase scene, resulting in further unrealistic, playful staging. Transitions between narrative points of view have been carefully crafted, with particular attention dedicated to smoothing the cuts through use of continuity editing (splicing together actions that span various shots while taking place in different locations), camera moves and matching graphics.
Shot sizes range from long and full shots to help describe the environments the main character performs in as well as his actions, to medium shots and close-ups to capture his expressions and more subtle behavior.
According to the director, the short was produced with 11 puppets, 7 sets, 4 puppet versions of the main character, plenty of glue tubes and 18 months of work.
What makes Away work so well? Highly creative script, plenty of surprises, surreal elements, playful non-realistic staging, quality editing and abundant humor.