"Passion, intimacy and sensuality. The very first CG animated short about tango offers an immersive experience."
En Tus Brazos is a short film that narrates a story of tragic beauty to the rhythm of well-known tangos. The short has an Argentine flavor, yet it wasn’t produced at the margins of the Río de la Plata: it was created by three French artists, François-Xavier Goby, Edouard Jouret and Matthieu Landour at animation school Supinfocom Valenciennes. The three artists have created a short that stirs the emotions of people around the world (and especially of “milongueros”).
The idea for the script came from a trip I made to South America, and to Argentina in particular.
Analysis: First Look
Filled with music and presenting a strong initial paradox (a dancer who can’t stand on his feet) the short hooks the viewer through playful narration and potent transmission of emotions, passion, intimacy and sensuality. In essence, it successfully transmits many of the feelings of dancing tango.
It’s the authenticity of these feelings that allows one to sense that the choice of subject for the film is far from accidental, that one or more of the authors know very well the experience portrayed in the film.
We’ll be taking a look at the tools used by the filmmakers to accomplish their task. Let’s begin!
Shot Types and Camera Elements
Full shots, close-ups and wide shots are most used in the film. Full shots help cover the action of the dancing characters and wide shots are used to capture the entire stage. Close-ups are put to great use, both to capture details from the dancing as well as to show the characters’ expressions and create an atmosphere of intimacy, which is common in the dance. Some extreme close-ups are also used for this purpose.
Camera moves abound in the short, including use of dollys, pans, and crane shots. The function of these moves vary, they’re used for linking elements (the album sequence at 0m30), revealing a scene, giving visual rhythm, indicating psychological displacement (the Elba character looking at the framed photo at 1m07), following the action (Elba raising her foot through Jorge’s leg while dancing at 3m15) or producing a reversal of roles (through camera roll at 3m54).
Here is one of the main reasons the short manages to hook viewers, POVs and levels of subjectivity change, mix and even overlap during the film, generating a playful combination of “reality” with the characters’ subjective narration.
The introductory sequence is narrated from the POV of Jorge’s imagination but we only learn that when we see the character watching the photo album. Even at that point, the photos are brought alive ignited by his imagination, combining the subjective narration with a supposedly “realistic” narrative mode.
This device is used throughout the film and helps present one of the strong messages of the movie, Jorge enjoys a tango dance in his imagination, to the point of asking Elba not to stop at the end.
This element of play is also a defining characteristic of tango.
I want to look straight at God,
even if I’m bitten by pain,
even if it costs me my life.
Editing & Continuity
At an average shot length of 3.6 seconds, editing is quite fast and in line with current filmmaking averages. Mostly cuts are used with barely a few fades, something that fits perfectly with the rhythm and movements of tango dancing. Editing is used for building continuity, creating visual rhythm and also for switching between the different POVs and levels of subjectivity, with music helping to weave these different states.
Passage of time also varies, its flow is easier to grasp in the “realistic” narrative than in the internal, psychological one (something which also helps transmit the feeling of the dance).
Image & Iconography
Here we find more significant elements used to transmit sensations to the viewer. En Tus Brazos is filled with sensory images, from the contact of the characters’ bodies (1m38), to the touching of their feet (1m41), to Elba raising her foot over Jorge’s leg (3m15), and most especially in the way the short finishes, with the lines delivered on a black screen, the short effectively transmits vivid images to the senses, submerging viewers into sensuality.
The abundance of close-ups is also used to this end. Creating a climate of intimacy that is typical of the dance.
Mise-en-scèneThe film is set in Buenos Aires in the 1920s, and this is reflected both in the characters’ apartment as well as in the stage in which they are dancing. The dance sequences take place in what seems to be a theater stage and following the style of film musicals the staging, background scenery and characters’ performance end up developing choreography and blocking that is intended for the camera, and that couldn’t be seen by a seated audience.
In this case, some elements are used that can only be accomplished thanks to CG animation, and that would be impossible to recreate on a real stage.
The local factors in the creation of this short can be easily understood. En Tus Brazos could have only been conceived in just a few countries, and in this particular case (France) it can be explained due to a long, shared history of appreciation and cultivation of tango, its dance and musical style. Something which ultimately also speaks of a certain cultural affinity between the two countries.
The universal appeal is something a bit more complex to explain, since each culture will find something different in the film. But it deals with basic human emotions: passion, intimacy and sensuality. Something that will make the blood of most viewers flow.
En Tus Brazos uses shifts in subjectivity and a creative mise-en-scène for playful storytelling, together with close-ups (and extreme close-ups), sensory images and visual rhythm to build a climate of intimacy. The film created by the three artists successfully transmits the emotions of the dance, leaving the viewer at the end waking up from the wonderful psychological and emotional trip produced by an experience reminiscent of the dance itself.